On Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said 15 percent of Tennessee’s workforce had filed unemployment claims as of last week.
More than 400,000 people are without a job, Lee said during a press conference announcing new guidelines for restaurants and retailers that could open in most of the state’s counties this week.
Lee said $870 million in revenue was lost in March alone across some of Tennessee’s largest industries such as hospitality.
With employers and employees struggling, there could a $5 billion decrease in the state’s gross domestic product for 2020, the governor said.
The service industry has been hit especially hard, he said.
It’s not just the threat of potential sickness due to COVID-19, but also crippling financial hardship, Lee said.
On Thursday, Lee said retailers and restaurants are the vast majority of the businesses that have closed across the state. Restaurants could re-open for dining today (Monday, April 27) in 89 of the state’s 95 counties, including Anderson County, if they operate at 50 percent capacity and follow certain guidelines, such as keeping tables six feet apart and not opening bar areas. Dining in restaurants had been temporarily prohibited—but take-out, pickup, and delivery options were allowed—as the state tried to control the spread of COVID-19, a contagious respiratory illness that can be deadly.
Retailers in the 89 counties can open Wednesday if they open at 50 percent capacity. Retailers are being asked to use gloves, face coverings, and more opportunities for social distancing such as curbside or pickup options.
Last Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported that 2,702 new unemployment claims were filed in the week ending March 14, before the state was significantly affected by COVID-19.
But the new claims jumped to 39,096 in the week ending March 21.
They more than doubled to 94,492 in the week ending March 28.
The number of new claims peaked at 116,141 in the week ending April 4.
They have since fallen to 74,772 in the week ending April 11 and 68,968 in the week ending April 18.
The number of new claims filed in the East Tennessee workforce development area was 17,222 in the week ending April 18. That area includes Anderson, Knox, and Roane counties, among others.
That number of new claims was second only to Northern Middle Tennessee, which includes the Nashville area, where 29,065 new unemployment claims were filed.
The Greater Memphis area had 12,361 new claims, and the Southeast Tennessee area, which includes Chattanooga, had 10,188.
There has been an unprecedented demand on the unemployment computer system, causing the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development to move to a staggered schedule for workers filing their weekly unemployment certifications.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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