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A new study finds 87 percent of Iowa restaurants and bars have laid off workers


Closed signs hang on the door at Scratch Cupcakery (927 E 2nd Ave, Coralville) during the COVID-19 crisis. March 27, 2020. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

For the first time in five weeks, the number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits filed in Iowa was under 40,000. Iowa Workforce Development reported on Thursday that 27,912 first-time claims were filed for the week ending April 18.

Since the impact of COVID-19 and the mitigation efforts to limit its spread began being felt in Iowa, a total of 241,846 first-time claims for unemployment benefits have been filed in the state.

For the first time since the pandemic reached the state, manufacturing was the sector of Iowa’s economy responsible for the largest number of first-time claims, according to IDW.

• Manufacturing (5,143)

• Health Care & Social Assistance (3,985)

• Industry Not Available – Self-employed, Independent Contractors, etc. (3,817)

• Retail Trade (3,307)

• Accommodation & Food Services (2,606)

Approximately 4.4 million people filed first-time unemployment claims nationwide during the week ending April 18. That brings the five-week national total for such claims to 26.5 million.

“Jobless figures on this scale haven’t been seen since the Great Depression,” the Washington Post noted following the release of the national numbers. “The amount of jobs lost in that brief span effectively erased all the jobs created following the 2008 financial crisis.”

The Iowa Restaurant Association published a study this week on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s restaurants and bars. On average, restaurants have seen a 75 percent decline in sales compared to the same period last year, according to the study. Bars have seen an even larger decline in sales — 89 percent — and 92 percent of bars are currently closed.

On March 17, Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered all bars closed and restaurants to stop offering dine-in service. Three days later, the governor issued another order allowing bars and restaurants with a liquor license to sell unopened containers of alcohol for off-site consumption. But the study found that 77 percent of bars aren’t offering take-out because it would be impossible to make a profit, since they can’t match the prices on liquor offered by retail stores.

According to the Iowa Restaurant Association, 87 percent of bars and restaurants in Iowa have laid off employees during the previous 30 days. Only 45 percent of the bars and restaurants said they expect to be able to rehire all their employees once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.


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