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MANKATO — More than a fifth of the labor force in Blue Earth County has filed for unemployment insurance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since March 15, 8,664 people in the county have filed for unemployment, which is equal to 21% of the county’s labor force. (The labor force is the number of people 16 and older.)

In the nine-county area, 24,125 people have filed for unemployment since March 15, according to figures from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Blue Earth County saw the highest percentage of its labor force applying for unemployment of any area county. In Le Sueur County 3,078 people filed for unemployment, which is 19% of its labor force. Waseca County had 1,705 people file for unemployment, representing 19% of its labor force. Faribault County had 1,257 filings, equaling 18% of its labor force.

In Brown, Martin, Sibley and Watonwan counties, the share of the labor force unemployed ranged from 12% to 16%.

Statewide, 675,169 people have filed for unemployment since mid-March.

Those in the 25-34 age range have the highest number of unemployment claims of any age group. Based on education levels, those with only a high school degree have the highest number of unemployment claims.

Slightly more females than males have made unemployment claims.

Not surprisingly, the highest number of claims has been for those who work in the food and beverage industry, followed by those in retail and the construction trades.

While some retail stores, restaurants, bars and salons have started reopening across the country, the flood of layoffs has not stopped. The government reported last week that nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment in the previous week, with more than 36 million having filed claims since mid-March.

The unemployment rate in the U.S. stands at nearly 15%, the highest since the Great Depression. Goldman Sachs’ most recent projection estimated the unemployment rate will peak at 25%. That is up 10% from its earlier prediction. The new estimate comes after Goldman Sachs evaluated more government and other data.

Many of those who have filed for unemployment are still working but are being furloughed for perhaps a week or two per month.

What won’t be known for some time is how many of the 3 million who have filed for unemployment will be called back to work once the economy reopens and improves.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that in 10 states, the percentage of the labor force filing for unemployment is above 25%.

Kentucky, Georgia, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Washington and Alaska have been hardest hit. Many of those states rely heavily on retail and leisure jobs. Some states had major manufacturers hit hard, such as Michigan, where auto plants shut down.

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