Ohio borrows $1 billion+ to meet unemployment obligations

Claims for benefits remain historically high

Applications for unemployment benefits are stuck at historically high levels, with little relief in sight, even as Ohio has been forced to borrow more than $1 billion — and counting — from the federal government to keep unemployment checks flowing.

As of Thursday morning, Ohio government had borrowed $1.04 billion from the federal government to keep paying unemployment benefits.

Ohio’s unemployment compensation fund ran out of money in mid-June, forcing the state to borrow from the feds to continue paying benefits to jobless workers.

Before the fund went broke, Ohio requested $3.1 billion in borrowing authority from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“It’s important to note that the insolvency of Ohio’s fund is not unprecedented,” said Bret Crow, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). “Ohio borrowed more than $3.3 billion during the economic downturn in 2009.”

Ohio was not alone, then or now, Crow added. More than 30 states borrowed to meet unemployment obligations in the previous recession. And today, 21 states are borrowing from the federal government, he said.

It took until 2016 for Ohio to pay back what it had borrow to cover benefits in the 2007-08 recession.

Nationally, first-time applications or claims for benefits fell slightly to 840,000 in the week ending October 3, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s revised level, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

The previous week’s level was revised upward by 12,000 from 837,000 to 849,000.

The claims are a way to track layoffs, and economy-watchers had expected the number to remain high.

Nationally, the number fell slightly to 825,000 last week from 837,000 a week earlier. The number of weekly claims was as high as nearly 7 million but that number has been stick at just under 900,000 for several weeks now, well above the pre-COVID record of just under 700,000.

Mark Hamrick, senior economist for Bankrate.com, said claims numbers have “settled into a still historically high pattern.”

“The intermediate-term outlook remains quite concerning for several reasons, although we remain hopeful that the eventual availability of effective and safe vaccines will get us to a better place on a number of fronts," Hamrick said.

In Ohio, residents filed 18,592 initial jobless claims last week, according to ODJFS.

The total number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 29 weeks (1,752,326) was more than the combined total of those filed during the last four years, the state said.

‘Weak recovery’

People are finding jobs, but unemployment remains stubbornly high, said Gus Faucher, PNC Financial’s chief economist.

“Net job growth was solid in September at 661,000, although job growth has slowed in each of the past three months,” Faucher said. “The concern is that without additional stimulus the pace of improvement in the job market would slow even further, leading to a weak recovery and years of high unemployment.”

Locally for the week ending Oct. 3, Montgomery County saw 880 first-time applications for unemployment benefits on top of 14,473 claims ongoing from previous weeks.

Greene County had 194 initial claims, with 2,726 claims ongoing from earlier weeks. In Miami County, those numbers were 148 and 1,960, respectively.

Clark County had 165 first-time claims for benefits, with 2,753 claims continuing as of the week ending Oct. 3. In Butler County, 460 first-time claims joined 8,430 continuing claims. And in Warren County, 216 claims were filed with the first time, with 4,127 claims ongoing.

About the Author