SPRINGFIELD — The unemployment rate in Illinois reached a staggering 16.4% in April, the highest rate recorded since the modern system of tracking joblessness began in 1976, the Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday.
The previous record of 13.9% was set in February 1983, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The rate in April was 12.2 percentage points higher than March, which was revised downward to 4.2%, reflecting a revised estimate of the number of people in the labor force that month.
That news came just a few months after the state set a record low unemployment rate of 3.4% in November, reflecting the speed with which the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a virtual shutdown of most of the state and national economies.
The numbers reflect an overall loss of 762,200 nonfarm jobs since March, the largest single-month decline in state history, and a decline of 822,800 jobs since April 2019.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our economy, as has been the case in states across the nation,” Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes said in a statement. “As we move to safely reopen much of our economy, we are focused on ensuring working families and small businesses have the resources they need to recover, and we urge the federal government to step up and provide additional relief.”
IDES said that because of the high unemployment rate, extended state benefits are now available to those who exhaust their 26 weeks of regular state unemployment and the additional 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC.
IDPH said that since March 1, it has processed more than 1.2 million claims for regular unemployment. In addition, it has processed 74,515 applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, since that program launched May 11, and another 36,367 applications for the PEUC program. Both of those programs are 100 percent federally funded.
During his daily COVID-19 media briefing, however, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said even those additional programs might not be enough to help unemployed workers weather the storm.
“I’ll be honest with you, I see the $600 extra that people got and are getting in unemployment benefits, even that added on top of the existing unemployment benefits doesn’t seem to be enough,” he said. “And when you think about the amount of time that it looks like, that the economists, not me, the economists are saying that it might take us to get back to normal, I’m concerned that the typical number of weeks that are allowed may not be enough.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Illinois leisure and hospitality industry was hit the hardest by the pandemic, shedding more than 295,000 jobs during the month, or nearly half of the sector’s workforce. The trade, transportation and utilities sector lost just fewer than 100,000 jobs, or about 8% since March. Professional and business services shrank by 93,800 jobs, or 11.3%.
If there was any good news in Thursday’s report, it was that the economic impact of the pandemic and shutdown orders showed signs of leveling off.
The U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday there were 72,816 new claims for unemployment filed in Illinois during the week ending May 16 — a staggeringly high number, but an increase of just 145 from the week before.
In addition, for the week ending May 9, there were 733,466 workers in Illinois receiving continuing unemployment benefits, a decrease of 22,446 from the week before.
Pritzker said Wednesday that all four regions of the state are on track to enter the next phase of his reopening plan on May 29. That will enable most offices and retail establishments to reopen, using social distancing restrictions. Also, bars and restaurants will be allowed to open for outdoor seating using social distancing practices.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
Meet the 'Mask Committee,' making masks for Southern Illinois police, health care workers
Photos: Meet the 'Mask Committee,' making masks for Southern Illinois police, health care workers
On March 20, I made a mask for my husband, who is a health care worker, because there was a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, at his workplace. Then, I made more masks for my elderly neighbors, elderly local people and local friends, as well as friends from New York and Florida. I was using leftover fabric I had in my workshop — holidays patterns like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Fourth of July.
I was running out of material and then Calico Country Sew store in Carbondale started donating fabric. I picked up some yards, and I was able to make masks for the police officers from Carterville. But, that was it: I ran out of material, and Amazon wasn’t shipping until May. As soon as I announced on my Facebook page that I had run out of material, people started donating fabric, metal wire, machine needles and threads. With that donation, I was able to keep making more masks to donate, and I completed a group of masks for Herrin police officers.
Then, Dr. Amanda Brazis Cook from Southern Illinois Healthcare approached me asking if I can reuse operating room drapes to make masks. She brought the material to my house, and at that point, I realized I needed extra hands to mass produce masks for area health care workers.
I asked the president of Carterville Rotary Club to help me find ladies who know how to sew, and Mary Slider and Louise Humble joined the effort. I also asked the president of my Woman’s Club in Herrin, and she was able to help me find three more ladies: Patty Cox, Carla Shasteen and Tienne Kollar, all of Herrin.
Another doctor joined the team: Dr. Danielle Tomevi brought material and also found a lady to help us, Dorene from Murphysboro.
And that is how the mask committee was formed. We named it "Mask Committee: Keep Calm and Sew."
After that, Joni, a nurse at Herrin Hospital, joined the committee, too, then Mary Russell, one of the managers from Dillards, Nancy, one of my neighbors, and Mirna from Murphysboro.
We have been sewing our hearts out since March. April was the busiest month for us. We have made hundreds of masks to donate.
Then, we had a request of a new pattern and we had to divide the committee in two to work the requested pattern. Dr. Sara Altamimi provided us with more OR drapes to use, and we have been working making two different masks for area health care workers.
Ninety-five percent of the masks have been donated to SIH, and 5% to community members and police officers. We have received several selfies of health care workers wearing the masks in different departments. It really made us happy that we can give back and help the community in time of need.
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