Another 46,000 unemployment claims filed in Iowa, as a new report estimates COVID-19 will cost state’s ag economy $6.3 billion

Unemployment documents from the Iowa Workforce Development office. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

More than 46,000 first-time unemployment claims were filed in Iowa during the week ending April 11, Iowa Workforce Development reported on Thursday. The new claims were less than those reported during the previous two weeks but higher than the 41,890 first-time claims filed during the week ending March 21, the first period that reflected the impact of COVID-19 in the state.

In the most recent report, there were 46,356 new claims. The previous three weeks saw first-time claim totals of 67,334 (week ending April 4), 58,453 (week ending March 28) and 41,890 (week ending March 21). The total number of first-time claims in Iowa since the impact of COVID-19 is 214,033.

IDW’s breakdown of the five sectors of the economy filing the most first-time claims remained basically the same as the previous week’s breakdown, but the broad category of “Industry Not Recognized” replaced construction on the list.

• Health Care and Social Assistance (6,789)

• Manufacturing (6,002)

• Retail Trade (5,813)

• Accommodation and Food Services (4,292)

• Industry Not Recognized (9,604)

Nationwide, more than 5.2 million first-time unemployment claims were filed during the week ending April 11, bringing the four-week total of such claims to approximately 22 million.

“This is the deepest, fastest, most broad-based recession we’ve ever seen,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton in Chicago, told the New York Times.

“On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported the steepest monthly drop in retail sales since record keeping began nearly 30 years ago, and the Federal Reserve said industrial production had recorded its biggest decline since 1946,” the Times noted.

A new report from Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development estimates the economic disruption caused by COVID-19 may cost Iowa’s largest agricultural industries $6.3 billion.

“We estimate overall annual damage of roughly $788 million for corn, $213 million for soybean, over $2.5 billion for ethanol, $658 million for fed cattle, $34 million for calves and feeder cattle, and $2.1 billion for hogs,” the report states. “As more data become available and as the pandemic evolves, these estimates will certainly change, but for now they represent our best assessment of the impact on these industries.”

According to the report’s authors, the best analogies for the impact of COVID-19 on the agricultural sector may be the “large scale destruction of farmland and processing facilities in the southern United States during the Civil War and the dust bowl on the Great Plains in the 1930s.”

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