Coronavirus in Tennessee: Navigating record unemployment with economic and emotional impacts

Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Thousands are filing unemployment claims in Tennessee, the numbers breaking unemployment records in days instead of months or weeks.

The number of new unemployment claims in Tennessee jumped from nearly 3,000 to more than 112,000 in a matter of three weeks, according to data released Thursday morning by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce.

The department reported the number of claims for the week ending April 4 was 112,438. The previous week’s number was 94,492 and the week before that was 39,096. The week ending March 14 recorded approximately 2,702 new unemployment claims.

“It’s not reason to panic, for certain, it’s a reason to be prudent both health wise and economic wise,” said Bill Fox, Director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.

Fox says unemployment numbers are staggering, in that, the numbers seen statewide in the last three weeks are equal to numbers it took months to reach during The Great Recession, from 2007-2009.

However, Fox says it’s important to note that the economy is slowing down because of a government-wide decision to prevent the spread of COVID-19, not because of a specific economic problem.

That is important to differentiate, he says, because it means when this global health crisis ends, the economy will begin moving again, slowly but surely.

The economic impacts are only part of the greater landscape of unemployment impacts. The second part, Fox says, is the emotional impact.

“Fear is probably a good description of what I’m feeling. I’m fearful going out and taking an essential job … is it worth it going out there not knowing exactly? No one really knows where this is gonna take us,” said Whitney Blue, unemployed due to coronavirus concerns.

Blue worked at a Knoxville Shoney’s before the restaurant closed and laid off all employees. She is navigating unemployment currently.

COVID-19 Unemployment Resources

President Trump recently signed the CARES Act or COVID-19 stimulus bill into law. Once the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development determines how the state will obtain the federal funding and implement the changes, the Department will announce details for independent contractors, the self-employed and business owners who will soon be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

TN Dept. of Labor website

State resources for employees can be found here.

State resources for employers can be found here.

Kroger is hiring new associates to help keep stores stocked during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Kroger said in a release in March that the company is urging those in industries hard hit by the coronavirus, such as restaurants, hospitality and travel, to apply for the new open positions. Interested individuals can view jobs and apply HERE.

Walmart will also be hiring 150,000 additional employees through the end of May in its stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers. Walmart says the positions will be temporary at first, but many will convert to permanent roles over time.

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