GULF SHORES – The number of people filing for unemployment in Baldwin County on the week ending April 4 was almost 190 times the total of claims of four weeks before, according to Alabama Department of Labor Reports.
During the week, 5,696 Baldwin County residents filed claims for unemployment. In the last weeks, more than 10,000 people in Baldwin County filed for unemployment.
During the week ending March 14, a total of 30 claims were filed in Baldwin County.
In the intervening weeks, that number jumped 1,400 percent to 503 for March 21, then to 4,683, an increase of 831 percent for the week ending March 28, according to Department of Labor statistics.
Lee Lawson said the claims are a major portion of Baldwin County’s workforce of about 100,000 people.
We’ve pretty much lost out of those two weeks, we’ve lost about 10,000 jobs, which is equal to about 11 percent of Baldwin County work force population,” Lawson said. “Just in that period, we went from being probably the second or third lowest unemployment rate in the state to 11 percent, jumped almost 8 percentage points in unemployment in about three weeks.”
Local chambers of commerce are working to help local businesses try to keep residents employed, Greg Alexander, president of the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber, said.
“The CABC and South Baldwin Chamber are working together through Gateway Initiative to provide daily email blasts with updated resource information to the businesses about SBA loans and the CARE Act,” he said. “We also have created a resource called Takeout Blitz that is on both our websites and lists participating restaurants. The CABC staff has been calling all 1,000 of our members to personally check on them. We have also provided our members a link so they can ask us specific questions and we research the best resources (Member Support Function).”
Lawson said some business owners expect the economy to recover, but do not know how soon or whether they will be able to bring back laid off workers in time to meet demands.
Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act passed in Congress, workers will receive an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits for the next four months. Combined with Alabama’s current maximum benefit, the total $875 is more than someone would make earning $21 an hour for a 40-hour week.
“On a 40-hour work week, full unemployment benefits are equaling $21.88 an hour,” Lawson said. “For a lot of hourly workers, if you’re able to max out the full benefits on unemployment, that’s more than you were making if you rushed back to work. Is that an incentive for them to come back to work or are some going to milk the full benefits for four months.”
He said chamber officials, business leaders and educators are working to prepare the labor force for the economic recovery. In Baldwin County, some of the hardest hit sectors by the crisis are the larger employment categories, wrapped around the tourism industry.
“We’re positioning ourselves so that we’re in a position to capitalize as a community and as a high-growth community and one that will potentially have a good bit of workforce on the sidelines that can be repurposed,” Lawson said.