INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — It could be a year or more before Indiana's economy fully recovers from the coronavirus-sparked recession that put one in six people out of work, the leader of the state's largest business group warned Thursday.
Even as more of Indiana’s business restrictions are lifted, federal statistics show about 24,000 residents applied for unemployment benefits last week, for a 12th week of significant job losses since widespread closures started in March.
Indiana’s unemployment rate of about 3% before the pandemic hit is a reason for optimism about an economic rebound, said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
“It will be well into next year, but the underlying economy was strong and we should be poised for a strong and relatively, compared to past recessions, quick recovery,” Brinegar said. “It is, nevertheless, going to take a year or so and take us well into next year before we’re back to something resembling where we were prior to this pandemic.”
New jobless aid applications submitted last week in Indiana were roughly equal to the week before, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released Thursday. That's about one-sixth of Indiana’s weekly peak of 139,000 new unemployment claims in late March when coronavirus-related business closures first hit hard.
National figures marked the 10th straight weekly decline in applications for jobless aid since mid-March.
Indiana began easing restrictions on businesses in early May. Movie theaters, bars and casinos will be allowed to reopen, with safety measures in place, under a statewide order from Gov. Eric Holcomb that takes effect Friday.
About 227,000 Indiana residents received unemployment benefits for the week ending May 30, down about 6,500, or 3%, from the previous week, according to the federal jobs report.
Indiana had the country’s fifth-highest unemployment rate for April at 16.9%, topping the national rate of 14.7%.
The state chamber raised concerns in a report released Thursday about Indiana trailing neighboring states in some areas such as post-high school education and health measures, including smoking and obesity rates.
Brinegar said those factors could slow down Indiana’s recovery as it will face competition from other states.
Indiana’s private sector employment during April fell by 380,500 workers from March, the state Department of Workforce Development said. The hardest-hit sectors were leisure and hospitality, with 116,000 job losses, and manufacturing, which lost about 78,000 jobs.
Brinegar said he expected tourism- and convention-related businesses will face the toughest recoveries.
“It will depend on how comfortable and how safe people feel it is to travel, to go to a convention, to stay in a hotel, to go to a sporting event,” he said.