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National unemployment numbers soar to historic highs; how does Ohio fare in comparison?

The Labor Department isn’t slated to release state numbers until next week, but Ohio is expected to fare worse than the nation.

CLEVELAND — National unemployment numbers released Friday reveal 20.5 million jobs were lost in April, bringing the unemployment rate to 14.7%.

President Donald Trump believes the numbers will start coming down, which is certainly optimistic given the job losses are the worst since the Great Depression. Yet it seems even those who are unemployed share the president's optimism.

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll found 77% of laid off or furloughed workers say they expect to be rehired once the country opens up. In addition, employers who took those Paycheck Protection Program loans from the Small Business Administration have to hire back laid off or furloughed workers by July.

The Labor Department isn’t slated to release state numbers until next week, but Ohio is expected to fare worse than the nation.

"I think that that will reflect the fact that Ohio acted early to close down businesses in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus," Michael Shields, a researcher with Policy Matters Ohio, said.

And workers here are not as confident as they are in the rest of the country: In my Facebook poll, only 11% thought they'd get their job back, while nearly 56% percent said they don't know.

Paula Garcia, who works in catering, is one of them.

"The industry changed and so we don't know," she said, adding she's been trying to get unemployment benefits for seven weeks. "What I've heard is, once they start opening again they're going to bring people back in phases. So, they haven't really told us anything.”

Then, there are people like Ron Kelly who owns a bed and breakfast in Oberlin and isn't sure he'll ever be able to reopen.

When people check in, they're here 24 hours or even longer," he said. "So I'm going to walk around my house with a mask on, sanitize guestrooms when you can't get the sanitizer?"

The next few weeks are critical as we see how many go back to work during the reopenings. Then, the question is whether consumers will want to go out and spend.

"Public officials do have the ability to guide us to a recovery," Shields explained. "But, that ability is really based on our confidence, that that's going to be done in a way where people who are going out into the world and stores and restaurants are going to be safe."

Until then, if people run out of money—especially those who are still waiting for unemployment benefits—they won't be able help the economy.

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