By Erick Johnson
Gary has the highest unemployment rate than any large city in Northwest Indiana and the state, according to a Crusader review of data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated economies in cities across the country as many businesses struggle to operate under tight restrictions. Gary’s unemployment rate last year was also the highest among large cities in Indiana, but the pandemic has dramatically pushed the city’s unemployment rate even higher.
According to the latest data, Gary’s unemployment rate in June was 21.9 percent, the highest among 40 cities with populations larger than 25,000. In May, Gary’s unemployment rate was 20.0 percent, the second highest, behind Kokomo, Indiana, a city located 126 miles southeast of Gary. In May, Kokomo had a 24.2 percent unemployment rate, data show.
Before the pandemic, Gary’s unemployment in May and June 2019 was dramatically lower. The city’s unemployment rate for the two months that year was 6.2 percent in May and 7.1 percent in June.
For both May and June, Gary’s unemployment rate was far lower than the state and national average. Indiana’s unemployment rate in May was 12.3 percent and 11.2 percent in June. Nationally, the unemployment rate in May was 13.3 percent and 11.1 percent in June.
In July, national unemployment fell to 10.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development will release July unemployment rates for Gary and other Indiana cities later this month.
East Chicago’s 20.9 percent unemployment rate in June was the second highest in the state. In May, East Chicago had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the state behind Kokomo, Gary, Hobart and Michigan City.
In 2019, East Chicago’s unemployment rate in June was 6.8 percent.
Among large cities in Northwest Indiana, Gary and East Chicago had the highest unemployment rate in June, followed by Merrillville (17.7 percent) and Hobart (17.7 percent), Hammond (16.1 percent), Elkhart (14.2 percent), Muncie (12.8 percent) and Schererville (12.5 percent)
In May, Gary and Hobart had the highest unemployment rate respectively among large cities in Northwest Indiana. East Chicago (18.7 percent) had the third highest unemployment rate, followed by Merrillville (17.9 percent), Hammond (16.3 percent), Crown Point (15.3 percent), Elkhart (15.1 percent), Schererville (13.7 percent) and Muncie (12.5 percent).
In Gary’s metropolitan area, which includes the counties of Jasper, Lake, Newton and Porter, the unemployment rate was 15.2 percent in May and 14.8 percent in June.
In 2019, the unemployment rate in Gary’s metro area was 3.8 percent in May and 4.2 percent in June.
At least 32 million Americans have been unemployed since the pandemic began in March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. For the week ending August 1, there were 218,351 unemployment claims in Indiana.
According to the Labor Department, the maximum weekly benefit payment for unemployed workers in Indiana is $390.
The federal extended benefit payment of $600 per week expired July 31, but President Trump last week, signed an executive order that would give unemployed Americans $400 a week in extended benefits. House Democrats want benefits to remain at $600 per week.