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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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Whitmer toughens mask mandate; businesses must deny service | News, Sports, Jobs

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This Thursday photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor shows Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as she addresses the state during a speech in Lansing. Whitmer on Friday toughened a requirement to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic, mandating that businesses open to the public deny service or entry to customers who refuse to wear one. The governor also expanded where people must have a face covering beyond indoor public spaces. Starting immediately, they have to wear one outdoors if they cannot consistently keep 6 feet from non-household members, and while using public transportation, a taxi or a ride-sharing vehicle — with some exceptions. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday toughened a requirement to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic, mandating that Michigan businesses open to the public deny service or entry to customers who refuse to wear one.

The governor also expanded where people must have a face covering beyond indoor public spaces. Starting immediately, they have to wear one outdoors if they cannot consistently keep 6 feet from non-household members, and while using public transportation, a taxi or a ride-sharing vehicle — with some exceptions.

Violators will now be subject to a misdemeanor fine.

“No shirts, no shoes, no mask — no service,” Whitmer wrote in an order.

Businesses must comply beginning Monday or risk losing their licenses. Five other states have imposed similar requirements on businesses, she said.

Face coverings reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19, Whitmer said. She pointed to “stalled” progress in suppressing the virus — cases have risen again in Michigan — and contended that spotty compliance with her monthslong mask requirement is a “big part of the reason.”

“The heroes on the front lines of this crisis have gone hours without taking their masks off every day — doctors, nurses, child care workers, grocery store workers. We owe it to them to wear our masks when we’re on a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.

There are exceptions for children under age 5 and, as before, people who cannot medically tolerate a mask. Those eating or drinking while seated at a restaurant remain exempt. So too are people exercising, officiating a religious service, communicating with the hearing-impaired, giving a speech, and police, firefighters and paramedics engaged in public safety work.

The temporary removal of a face covering is allowed when necessary to receive a service or for identification purposes. Child care centers and overnight camps are not considered public spaces under the order.

Michigan Retailers Association President and CEO Bill Hallan said the industry appreciates Whitmer’s efforts to increase mask wearing inside stores but expressed frustration “that she did not leave the policing to law enforcement officers. This puts retail employees in potentially dangerous situations when they’re forced to confront unmasked customers.”

He also said it is “impossible” for stores to determine the validity of “ambiguous” exemptions, such as when people say they cannot medically tolerate a face covering, and even retailers acting in good faith could face severe licensing sanctions based on the actions of noncompliant customers.

“When shopping, please wear a mask and understand that retailers are not to blame for the state’s mask requirement,” Hallan said.

Whitmer, who has acknowledged the difficulty of actually enforcing the mask requirement and businesses’ reluctance to turn away or confront customers, said Thursday that businesses were asking for tougher rules they could point to and say “this is the law of the land.”

Some local law enforcement agencies have refused to enforce other restrictions the governor ordered to curb the virus. The provision to require masks in crowded outdoor places came after people attended several large lake parties without socially distancing in recent weeks.

Michigan, where 6,271 have died from coronavirus-related complications, has the nation’s 10th-lowest rate of COVID-19 infections over the past two weeks. But it has had an uptick of late, with an average of 483 new cases over the last seven days, which is 171 more than the rolling average on June 25. The seven-day average of positive tests is 2.45%, up from 1.94% two weeks ago.

As more people are tested, an increase in the raw number of positive tests is to be expected. But if the virus is being brought under control, then the percentage of positive results relative to the total number of tests should be coming down.

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Harley-Davidson cuts 700 jobs | Local News I Racine County Eye

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MILWAUKEE, WI — Harley-Davidson Inc. plans to cut about 700 global positions and announced the immediate departure of one of its top executives in a restructuring plan the company is calling a “rewire.”

This story also appeared in Patch

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission posted Thursday, Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson officials said they approved the plan June 28 and rolled it out this week.

Company executives said they will eliminate about 700 positions globally, impacting about 500 current employees.

>> Read The Entire Harley-Davidson SEC Filing Here

In the filing, company officials said John A. Olin is leaving his role as senior vice president and chief financial officer, effective immediately.

Olin served the company for the last 17 years.

“As Mr. Olin moves on to his next professional ventures, the company wishes him well with our gratitude and respect for his many contributions during his time with the company,” Harley-Davidson said in a statement.

Darrell Thomas, 60, vice president and treasurer, will become interim chief financial officer, effective immediately, in addition to maintaining his duties as treasurer.

Thomas has been in his current position since 2010.

As a result of the restructuring plan, Harley-Davidson officials said they expect the restructuring to cost about $50 million — mostly in cash charges.

“The company expects to incur restructuring charges for one-time termination benefits of about $30 million, accelerated depreciation of approximately $5 million and contract termination and other costs of approximately $15 million through 2020,” officials said in the filing.



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Reduced Relay moves back to City Park | News, Sports, Jobs

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PARKERSBURG – Relay for Life of Wood County will be a little different this year but the support of survivors, current fighters and those who lost their battle to cancer will remain the same.

Due to the recent increase in local COVID-19 cases, the event, which had been planned for the former Jungle Drive In Theatre will now take place at the Parkersburg City Park pond on July 17.

From 9:30 to 10:30 p.m., luminaries will be on display with each light honoring someone who’s fighting cancer, who survived cancer or who passed away due to cancer.

“We’re just trying to make every effort to do something for our community with our Relay but also to keep everybody safe,” Carmen Hathaway, senior community development manager with the American Cancer Society said. “We also would like to engage our cancer survivors to come if they can, remaining in the car so we can say hi to them as they come through.”

It is hoped to go back to the traditional Relay for Life event next year but Hathaway said in the meantime, folks can come and see the luminaries and visit relayforlife.orgwoodwv or the Relay for Life Wood County, Parkersburg Facebook page to donate.


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