Layoffs have been announced at an Oak Ridge movie theater and car dealership as well as at a fast food restaurant that could start renovations next month. Two Oak Ridge hotels have also announced layoffs.
The layoffs were announced as Tennessee reported that more than 300,000 unemployment claims were filed in the past four weeks. Parts of the economy have been shut down, and residents are required to stay at home unless they are conducting essential activities. Tennessee, along with the rest of the country and the world, is trying to slow the spread of COVID-19, a contagious respiratory illness that can be deadly.
Thirty-five workers were affected by layoffs at the movie theater, Cinemark Tinseltown USA, according to a notice posted by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development on Friday. The layoffs were effective March 26.
The theater, which is at Main Street Oak Ridge in the center of the city, has been temporarily closed.
The closure of Cinemark theaters across the United States is temporary and a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, spokesperson Caitlin Piper said Saturday.
“The health and safety of our employees, guests, and communities is a top priority, and we look forward to once again hiring employees and welcoming moviegoers to experience the magic of cinematic storytelling on our big screens when it is safe to do so,” Piper said. “Again, these Cinemark theatre closures across the U.S. are temporary.”
In its WARN notice filed with the state, Cinemark called the layoffs permanent. That’s to ensure the former theater employees are eligible for unemployment benefits, Piper said.
A federal law known as the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, offers protection to workers, their families, and communities by requiring employers to provide notices 60 days before plant closings, mass layoffs, or business sales. The notices are posted by the state. Services are expected to be provided to the employer and affected employees.
Another Oak Ridge business, Secret City Chrysler, also filed a WARN notice with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. It was posted March 25. That notice, filed by CDJR of Knoxville doing business as Secret City Chrysler, said 32 workers were affected by the temporary layoff, which was effective March 24. The company is located on Oak Ridge Turnpike.
The car dealership is still open. A manager was not immediately available for comment by telephone on Saturday afternoon.
The fast food restaurant, Chick-fil-A, has notified the state that it could temporarily lay off 102 employees on May 2. The company, which is located on South Illinois Avenue, notified the state on March 2, and a notice was posted March 6, just a day after Tennessee reported its first COVID-19 case and before the state started shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant layoffs are for a renovation, which could reportedly be evaluated on May 1.
Customers are currently not allowed to dine in at restaurants due to COVID-19, but in many cases, they can order drive-through and takeout orders. In the past few weeks, Chick-fil-A has often had one of the busiest drive-through lines among Oak Ridge restaurants.
Two hotels, Hampton Inn and Diplomat Motel, have notified the state of temporary layoffs. The temporary layoffs at the Hampton Inn on South Illinois Avenue affected seven workers effective March 21, the company’s notice said. Diplomat Motel, which is located at 206 South Illinois Avenue, where Days Inn is, said four workers were affected by its temporary layoff, which was effective March 18.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the layoffs at Secret City Chrysler and the two Oak Ridge hotels were due to COVID-19.
Prestige Maintenance USA, a company that has operations in Anderson County, among 28 locations within Tennessee, announced temporary layoffs of 52 workers effective March 19. But it’s not clear how many of those jobs are in Anderson County.
Unemployment claims have increased significantly in Tennessee as the state, county, and world try to control the spread of COVID-19, and many parts of the economy are shut down. In Tennessee, weekly unemployment claims rose from 2,702 in the week ending March 14 to 39,096 in the week ending March 21. That was an unprecedented spike in new unemployment claims, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. It came the same week that roughly 3.28 million unemployment claims were filed in the United States, up about three million from the previous week.
New claims more than doubled in Tennessee the next week, rising to 94,492 in the week ending March 28. They peaked at 116,141 in the week ending April 4. They fell to 74,772 in the week ending April 11.
That’s 324,501 unemployment claims filed in Tennessee in the past four weeks.
The East Tennessee region, which includes Anderson and Knox counties, had 16,669 new claims in the week ending April 11. That was second only to Northern Middle Tennessee among the state’s 12 workforce development areas. Northern Middle Tennessee, which includes Davidson County and Nashville, reported 34,643 new unemployment claims. The Greater Memphis area reported 12,216 claims; Southern Middle Tennessee reported 10,488; and Southeast Tennessee reported 10,442.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has said he hopes to re-open the state’s economy in phases starting May 1.