Unemployment numbers loom as second part of COVID-19 pandemic

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee is bracing for what Gov. Bill Lee called a “significant increase” in the state’s unemployment claims.

In one response, the state Department of Labor and Workforce said its tripling staff to handle the expected jump.

Few places in the state have become more of a symbol of those out of work as “Lower Broad” in Nashville’s Honky Tonk Central district.

Almost a year ago, the NFL Draft filled the streets there.

Recent precautions to keep COVID-19 from spreading have cleared the streets, the bars and the restaurants as few tourists can be found.

It has left thousands out of work who served the now nonexistent patrons who have become so important to Nashville’s economy.

“I am on Broadway at noon and you can’t even buy a beer on Broadway,” said Mitch Terry, who has was hanging out in front of Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge.

It’s just one part of Tennessee’s economy which is creating unemployment numbers rivaling or worse than the Wall Street recession more than a decade ago.  

“We obviously will have some significant increase in unemployment as some of these businesses limit services,” Lee said on Monday in reference to his order limiting all bars and restaurants statewide to only takeout or delivery.

Before the governor’s words, the state’s Labor Department–which tracks unemployment–said its tripled staff to process jobless claims.

They’ll be needed.

Closing places for COVID-19 created a ripple effect throughout the economy.

Just ask anyone connected to Lower Broad.

“It hits the liquor distributor,  it hits the truck driver. it hits the garbage people,” said Layla Vartanian outside the longtime establishment that bears her first name. “I have been here 25-years … I can’t even describe the words to describe it.”

In his first COVID-19 briefing last Monday, the governor outlined measures such as extending unemployment benefits to those suddenly out of work and to those who’ve been quarantined by a doctor.  

State unemployment figures released earlier this month through January indicated a statewide jobless rate of 3.3%.

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