COVID-19 is having substantial economic impacts and causing significant job losses as non-essential businesses close. In Idaho, unemployment insurance claims spiked following implementation of Idaho’s stay-home order, with nearly 110,000 total claims filed in the first five weeks following the statewide emergency order. Since then, weekly initial claims averages are roughly 18 times greater than the weekly average in 2019.
While it will take time to understand the full economic impact of COVID-19, it is not too early to detect job loss patterns. Some industries are losing more jobs than others, and while some industry losses are not surprising — like movie theaters, restaurants and salons — others may be counterintuitive. Despite the strain on some parts of the health care industry to treat COVID-19, health care workers are losing their jobs because patients are putting off routine medial care and elective surgeries. Other people are avoiding emergency rooms and urgent care clinics due to fears of contracting COVID-19.
Within sectors, the effects of COVID-19 can vary widely. In retail trade, establishments are closed altogether or reduced to curbside pickup and online order fulfillment. Grocery stores, which fall under retail trade, are hiring more employees to sanitize stores more frequently and meet an increased demand for curbside grocery pickup. This is only one example of how the effects of COVID-19 remain obscured on a sector level. More detailed data will be needed to parse out the virus’s full impact on the Idaho workforce.
By examining Idaho industry data associated with the wave of initial unemployment claims, it is possible to evaluate the magnitude of the job losses across sectors. However, these claims do not reflect workers who may be idled, but not laid off, nor do they capture cascading economic impacts as increasingly more households struggle to meet their basic expenses.
Sam.Wolkenhauer@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 457-8789 ext 4451