New jobless claims surge in region

A "Now Hiring" sign has been placed in front of Navistar Wednesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
A "Now Hiring" sign has been placed in front of Navistar Wednesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

New jobless claims soared in the region last week primarily because of large increases in claims in Clark and Champaign counties.

In the week ending Oct. 31, new unemployment claims jumped 27% in Greene County and nearly 17% in Montgomery County, rising to the highest levels in months, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

New claims increased more than 11% in Butler and Miami counties and surged nearly 50% in Preble County. Warren County saw a slight uptick.

But the largest increases in the state were in Clark and Champaign counties.

Claims in Clark County increased more than 240% to 538. The last time the county’s tally was higher was in early May.

Champaign County’s claims shot up more than 280% in the week ending Oct. 31, increasing to 137, the most since early June.

The large spikes in those two counties are likely attributable, at least in part, to Navistar in Springfield temporarily shutting down one of its lines.

About 600 employees on a medium and heavy-duty truck line were temporarily laid off for one week as part of the end of Navistar’s fiscal year, said Chris Blizard, president of UAW Local 402, which represents nearly 1,300 employees at the plant.

“That’s probably where a spike came last week,” Blizard said. “It was just a scheduled production down week ― periodically they do that at the end of the year.”

Blizard said some workers who have vacation take it during the shut-down week. But others who are laid off do not and file for jobless benefits.

Those line employees returned to work on Monday.

Blizard said many Navistar workers live in Clark and Champaign counties.

Since late last year, Navistar laid off about 345 workers because of reduced production, Blizard said.

But, he said, many have been called back, and right now about 133 workers remain off work.

Statewide, initial claims rose 21% in the last week, and 70 of the state’s 88 counties saw increases.

The Springfield region’s economy overall has stabilized and companies are hiring, said Horton Hobbs IV, vice president of economic development with the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

The area has not had any significant layoff events, he said, though there is a lot of concern that prolonged pandemic-related closures and restrictions will hurt small businesses in the community.

New jobless claims in Montgomery, Miami and Butler counties rose to the highest levels since mid to late August.

New unemployment claims remain at elevated levels across the nation, and the economy is recovering jobs from the pandemic slower than it did earlier this year, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.

“Even as employers add or restore jobs, there is still ongoing job loss reflecting the depth and duration of the downturn now in its 33 week,” Hamrick said, adding that job cut announcements declined significantly last month.