HANNIBAL | As nearly 41 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past 10 weeks, Northeast Missouri’s jobless rates have climbed, although more slowly than the national trend.
U.S. Department of Labor data shows the nationwide unemployment rate in April hit 14.4% and in Missouri it rose to 9.8%. In this region the jobless rates ranged from a low of 4.2% in Shelby County to 8.5% in neighboring Monroe County.
It has been a rapid rise over the last two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with jobless rates in most counties nearly doubling.
State Rep. Louis Riggs, R-Hannibal, said the initial surge of unemployment claims was so high that Missouri’s online portal could not handle the volume “and we ran into crashes.” Some applications for unemployment also were rejected initially but most of those issues were corrected within a short time.
“Now that we have turned the corner (in Missouri) with gradual reopening since May 4, we’re seeing more folks reenter” the workforce, Riggs said.
“I was in downtown Hannibal not 20 minutes ago, trying to figure out how many businesses still might be closed and it looks like most of them have reopened, with the exception of the movie theater,” Riggs said.
Cory Mehaffy, executive director of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Authority, said this region has “fared more favorably than other areas” thanks to great employers and the transition that has already begun toward more normal operations.
“General Mills and some of our other employers are continuing to grow and are outpacing their usual production,” Mehaffy said.
“BASF already had a plan in place to deal with pandemics before this all happened.”
Mehaffy said some vendors that provide components for auto manufacturers are gearing back up production interruptions.
Some employers have reported that workers have declined to return to work in recent weeks. Mehaffy said in Missouri “if people are getting unemployment are offered hours and they choose not to work, they are no longer eligible for unemployment.”
Many employers have allowed people to work from home and Mehaffy said that may have helped lessen the impact of the coronavirus disruptions.
Going forward, Riggs expects that Congress will continue to look at relief packages to help the nation prepare in case the coronavirus flares up again later this year. He expects that support for broadband internet could help provide the online connectivity that could help more people work or take classes from home.
Location April March Year ago
United States 14.4 4.5 3.3
Missouri 9.8 3.9 2.7
Lewis 7.1 3.6 2.8
Marion 6.9 3.8 2.6
Monroe 8.5 4.8 3.3
Pike 8.1 4.0 2.1
Ralls 6.6 3.4 2.7
Shelby 4.2 4.9 2.1
Hannibal 6.8 3.7 2.6