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Unemployment benefit claims surge after virus closures | News, Sports, Jobs

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Nearly 190,000 Ohioans applied for unemployment benefits last week — 26 times more than the preceding week — and nearly 3.3 million Americans did the same as businesses shutter in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The 187,780 claims filed March 15 to 21 in Ohio represent a more than 2,500 percent increase in claims from the number filed the preceding week (7,042).

Also, that amount ranks high in comparison to claims filed at the height of the 1980s recession. In December 1981, 205,159 claims were filed in Ohio. For further perspective, 2019 had 369,594 claims.

Individual county-by-county numbers were not available Thursday, according to a spokesman with Ohio JFS who hopes the numbers will be ready today.

Thursday’s unemployment numbers from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and U.S. Department of Labor underscore the hard-hitting impact COVID-19 has on suffering state and national economies.

Layoffs are sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into a recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms and airlines. Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have closed factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they’re cutting jobs to save money.

As job losses mount, some economists say the nation’s unemployment rate could approach 13 percent by May. By comparison, the highest jobless rate during the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, was 10 percent.

“What seemed impossible just two weeks ago is now reality,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, an economist at Oxford Economics, a consulting firm. “The U.S. economy will experience the largest economic contraction on record with the most severe surge in unemployment ever.”

In Ohio, work is being done to bolster the state’s unemployment benefit system that was overwhelmed by the surge in COVID-19-related claims.

Servers are being added to expand capacity, about 15 times more than normal, said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on Thursday during the state’s daily virus briefing.

“We know not everybody is getting served at the pace the demand requires, but you should know they are working through that and the team is trying to build capacity,” Husted said, reassuring filers benefits would be retroactive.

Husted also advised filers to consider accessing the system during nonpeak hours to alleviate wait times.

Ohio JFS continues to urge people to file claims online. Those without internet access or who have case-specific questions can call 1-877-644-6562 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

Workers who lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus can enter the mass-layoff number 2000180 on their applications. Affected individuals who already have submitted claims without this number do not need to add it.

Across the U.S. the economic deterioration has been swift. As recently as February, the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. And the economy was growing steadily if modestly. Yet by the April-June quarter of the year, some economists think the economy will shrink at its steepest annual pace ever — a contraction that could reach 30 percent.

In its report Thursday, the Labor Department said 3.287 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, up from 282,000 during the previous week. Many people who have lost jobs in recent weeks, though, have been unable to file for unemployment aid because state websites and phone systems have been overwhelmed by a crush of applicants and have frozen up.

That logjam suggests Thursday’s report actually understates the magnitude of job cuts last week. So does the fact that workers who are not on company payrolls — gig workers, free-lancers, the self-employed — currently aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits even though in many cases they no longer are able to earn money.

Questions are being asked in Ohio regarding those types of workers. Husted said federal legislation addresses those folks for benefits, and the Ohio JFS team already is preparing and waiting on guidance from the U.S. Labor Department.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.





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U.S. businesses cut 27,000 jobs in March, before virus hit

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U.S. businesses cut 27,000 jobs in March, before virus hit – NEWS 1130


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Last Updated Apr 1, 2020 at 5:36 am PDT

WASHINGTON — U.S. companies shed 27,000 jobs in March, according to a private survey, a figure that mostly reflected the economy as it stood before the full impact of the viral outbreak.

Payroll processor ADP said small businesses took the biggest hit, losing 90,000 jobs, while medium-sized and large companies still added workers. Economists forecast that much larger job losses, probably in the millions, will be reported in the coming months.

Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

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Josephine Allen | News, Sports, Jobs

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Josephine Allen, 69, of Stockton, N.Y., died unexpectedly at home on Monday, March 30, 2020. Beloved wife of David M. Allen. A complete obituary will be published in the OBSERVER later in the week. Arrangements by David J. Dengler, LARSON-TIMKO Funeral Home, 679-9000.



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Local artist offers classes online | News, Sports, Jobs

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Artist Sheri Liebschner poses with one of her recent works. (Submitted photo)

EAST LIVERPOOL — The coronavirus quarantine has meant change to the life that we once knew, and this even was acknowledged by a local artist who recently shared her talents in art instruction online.

“I decided to start having a Zoom-based art class, when I realized our lives probably would not be getting back to normal anytime soon,” Sheri Liebschner explained. She had been teaching painting classes at the Museum of Ceramics on Monday mornings and Thursday evenings as well as the Daydreamers studio in Salem. That along with her Saturday workshop scheduled earlier this month in the East Liverpool Community and Learning Center had to be canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.

Missing her student artists and friends, Liebschner decided to go online. “I was missing …. being able to share their successes and pictures of their work on Facebook and Instagram. Many in the community responded positively on social media to our classes and the individual student effort, so I wanted to keep that spirit going.”

Although the COVID-19 crisis did hasten her actions, she had been thinking about offering online classes for a while. The classes are free and available to the community.

The online classes are pretty similar to her Museum of Ceramics’ classes, which she had began teaching in October. “Zoom allows participants to share audio and video, so we can share progress, problems and tips. Just like with the in-person class, we listen to music, share personal stories, local happenings and sometimes funny things too,” Liebschner continued, adding that she is still trying to work out some of the technical issues that have surfaced.

The class is at 10 a.m. Mondays and had been running around 40 minutes. However, Zoom has been extending that for the class to around 90 minutes at no additional charge.

Participants just need to download the free Zoom application on their computer, tablet or phone at http://zoom.us/Students. They provide their own supplies, and all experience levels are welcome.

Liebschner said that she inherited her love of art from her mother Carole, who is an accomplished artist in her own right. “She won awards for her paintings locally when I was growing up and has won quite a few recently in regional shows as well.”

She had studied art at Miami University and rediscovered it as an adult, taking continuing education classes in the evenings. This led to her signing up for some regular college art classes at the University of Akron, where she and her mother study with nationally recognized artist Christopher Leeper in Canfield. “Right now this is my day job, and it has really taken off over the past 12 months. I am represented by the Fine Art Sales Gallery at the Butler Institute of American Art”, where she sells original paintings and greeting cards.

Locally, the Museum of Ceramics also carries some of her smaller original works. For more information, visit www.sheriliebschner.com.


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