PHOENIX — On March 17, the mayors of Phoenix and Tucson required the closing of all bars and entertainment venues, as well as the limitation of restaurants to take-out only, to combat the spread of coronavirus in the state.
Days later, Governor Doug Ducey took similar action in any county that had at least one COVID-19 infection.
As a result of these actions, many gyms, bars, and restaurants laid-off employees to accommodate the massive drop in revenue they were facing. Arizona’s hospitality industry suffered a similar fate during a time when Arizona’s weather and spring training bring thousands of tourists into the state.
The impact of these layoffs is finally beginning to emerge.
On Monday, Arizona’s Department of Economic Security, the agency responsible for administering unemployment insurance, reported that 88,592 people filed initial unemployment claims for the week that ended on March 28.
The week before, the first week of the closures, 29,333 people had filed for unemployment insurance.
Combined, 117,925 Arizonans have filed unemployment insurance claims since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently put out employment statistics for Arizona for February 2020. Those figures estimate that, prior to the pandemic response, 161,300 Arizonans were unemployed, 4.5% of the labor force.
If the numbers reported by the AZDES hold or rise, Arizona’s unemployment rate could spike to at least 7.7 percent for March of this year.
An important caveat, not all initial unemployment claims that are filed are accepted by DES. While these numbers give us an indication of how many Arizonan’s livelihoods were affected by the pandemic, some of the claims will not carry over to the final reported unemployment statistics.