By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s unemployment rate hit 16.8% on Friday, the highest since the state’s current record-keeping system was developed almost 50 years ago.
The figure comes after nine weeks of job losses following the decision to shut down much of Ohio’s economy to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The last time the unemployment rate was even near this figure was the 14% recorded in December 1982 and January 1983, said Bret Crow, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The 16.8% is the highest since the current statistical record keeping began in 1976.
The state’s leisure and entertainment industry — which includes bars, restaurants and hotels — was particularly hard hit, losing 263,500 jobs in one month, or about 50% of total employment, Crow said.
The double-digit Ohio rate spiked from 5.8% in March and 4.1% in April a year ago.
The U.S. unemployment rate for April was 14.7%, up from 4.4% in March and up from 3.6% in April 2019.
The state reported Thursday that more than 1.2 million people filed unemployment claims in the past nine weeks as Ohio’s stay-at-home order depressed the economy and led to widespread layoffs.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed and probable deaths associated with the coronavirus in Ohio has reached 1,872, state health officials said Friday.
The Ohio Department of Health said that 41 new deaths were reported in the past day and that overall there have been more than 5,300 hospitalizations.
Health officials said there were more than 30,000 cases considered either confirmed or probable.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory at Lake Erie will remain closed until at least July 6, affecting its educational programming on South Bass and Gibraltar islands, history programs, visitors’ center operations and light house tours.
The grounds of the South Bass Island Lighthouse remain open to the public with social distancing protocols in place.
The Cincinnati Zoo announced a limited reopening on June 1 beginning with zoo members, with tickets sold only in advance online and with staggered entrance times. Indoor exhibits will be closed at first, but visitors will be able to walk through the hippo and elephant exhibits.
Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus contributed to this report.