The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have appeared in the April unemployment rates as the local area saw a major spike.

Monroe County saw an 18.3% increase in unemployment, giving the county a rate of 21.9% for April.

According to State of Tennessee Statistical Analyst Patrick Todd, the increase in the amount of unemployment was unpredictable.

“This is such a wild card that I don’t know if I had any expectations other than there being some pretty big increases,” said Todd. “Whether those would be 5 to 10% increases or 15 to 20% was really anybody’s guess. In fact I think McMinn and Monroe are the highest ever on rates.”

He stated that his records go back as far as 1990 meaning this is the highest rate the county has seen in 30 years.

“The hope is that this spike is temporary and that these job losses are just temporary furloughs and that people will be able to start working again pretty soon,” Todd stated. “It is anybody’s guess at this point and it could take a while.”

He believes the employment affects of the virus may not go away for a while.

“I don’t think next month we will be down to 3% or 4% ... that was sort of historic low territory in itself, but I wouldn’t expect to see anything real sharp in the next month,” said Todd. “You may see a modest decline and it kind of depends on how many of these job losses are permanent job losses and we may not know that for a while.”

He believes the majority of the permanent closures will be from small businesses.

“Unemployment may be with us for a while, but hopefully maybe it won’t be long,” he stated.

In surrounding counties, there were similar increases. The rates went up 11.3% in Blount County giving that county a rate of 14.4%, Loudon County went up 11.8% for a rate of 15.2%, McMinn rose 13.7% for a rate of 17.3% and Polk County increased by 9.8% for a rate of 13.4%.

All 95 counties across the state saw huge increases. The rate is now between 5% and 10% in only three counties, between 10% and 20% in 79 counties and above 20% in 13 counties.

The counties where the rate remains in single digits are Fayette County (9.4%), Hardeman County (9.7%) and Weakley County (9.6%).

Hardeman County saw the smallest rise in Tennessee, with a 5.2% increase.

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