Ohio's Unemployment Rate Hits A Record 16.8%, Higher Than National Average

May 22, 2020

Ohio’s unemployment rate reached a record high of 16.8% in April, nearly triple the month before, as COVID-19 closures fully hit economic activity.

April’s jobless rate is the highest ever recorded for Ohio, up a full 11 points since March. It's higher than the national unemployment rate of 14.7%.

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services director Kimberly Hall says she knows there have been problems handling unemployment claims, but the system’s workload went up 2,600% when the first closures were ordered in mid-March.

“Compared to other states of our size of claims, we’re falling right in line," Hall said. "I do know that states that have caseloads similar to ours, there are some that are struggling, unfortunately, more than we are even with our antiquated system."

Ohio's 16-year old filing system was undergoing an upgrade last year, which wasn't fully completed before the pandemic hit.

In April, 957,000 Ohioans were listed as unemployed. More than 1.2 million people have filed jobless claims since mid-March, along with 618,000 who don’t typically qualify but are getting pandemic unemployment assistance from the federal government.

The number of Ohioans filing for unemployment since mid-March is more than the total who filed in the last three years.

The April jobless rate beats the previous record of 14% in December 1982.

Hall also said at this point, the state is not denying anyone benefits for refusing to return to work. That includes people who are having trouble securing child care, since daycares can't open until May 31, and people who are concerned their employers don't have proper safety guidelines in place.