April 15, 2020
Tippecanoe County is facing historic levels of unemployment
But there are professional, educational and financial resources for laid-off and furloughed workers.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Like the rest of the United States, Tippecanoe County has been hit hard by unemployment caused by the COVID-19 crisis. As many companies temporarily halt operations, recently laid-off or furloughed workers still have opportunities to advance their careers, education and finances, according to Purdue career and personal finance experts.
Each of the past three weeks saw a record-breaking number of people filing for unemployment insurance in the county. As of Monday (April 13), more than 5,600 initial unemployment claims were filed in the three-week period, according to statistics from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. By comparison, the same three weeks in March and April last year totaled just more than 70 claims.
Some of the county’s largest employers and manufacturers, including Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. (SIA) and Caterpillar Inc., have temporarily suspended operations, with SIA ceasing pay beginning this week for all nonessential employees. Wabash National Corp. is set to furlough most of its hourly and salaried staff from April 20 through May 3.
“These are cyclical industries,” said Purdue labor economist Timothy Bond, an associate professor in the Krannert School of Management and faculty affiliate in the Purdue University Research Center in Economics. “These are industries that thrive when times are good but are vulnerable to a downturn if the economy gets hit really hard. An automobile, for example, is a durable good that consumers can delay purchasing if times are rough.”
But there are jobs available in Tippecanoe County and across the country, Bond said. Lafayette Venetian Blind Inc., another top-10 employer in the county, temporarily reopened to produce N95 masks, while other manufacturers in Indiana and the United States are converting operations to make ventilators and other medical equipment. Meanwhile, grocery stores like Pay Less Super Markets and e-commerce companies like Amazon are hiring to cope with a spike in demand.
“Demand has suddenly been shifted toward grocery stores, so there’s been a reallocation of workers into that supply chain,” Bond said. “But two to three months from now there could be layoffs as they reorient the supply chain back to where it was. The same thing could happen for manufacturers that switch to making ventilators, which have a finite demand. Once that demand is met, the industry is going to be laying off workers or reallocating them back to a different manufacturing purpose.”
Job search going virtual
One industry is thriving amid historic unemployment and unprecedented measures encouraging Americans to stay at home: virtual platforms, such as CareerEco, vFairs and Brazen, that allow companies to remotely host job fairs, as well as recruit and hire job candidates.
And there are a number of online tips and resources available to Purdue students, alumni and the general public who are considering going back to school, starting their own businesses or changing career fields, said Timothy Luzader, director of the Center for Career Opportunities (CCO). Those include:
- Update LinkedIn accounts and personal websites.
- Apply for jobs online and participate in virtual job fairs.
- Keep a professional appearance for remote video interviews.
- Check out the Career Success Handbook for tips on resume writing, interviewing and interview attire.
- Utilize entrepreneurial resources through the Purdue Foundry.
- Take advantage of Purdue’s free and discounted tuition options for recently laid-off and furloughed workers.
- Purdue students and alumni can use the Purdue Career Research Portal, schedule virtual, one-on-one meetings with career consultants, and get resume and cover letter advice by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- CCO is hosting the Just-in-Time Virtual Job Fair on April 22 with 49 companies from a variety of industries.
“People should utilize the online resources that are available to them through LinkedIn, virtual job fairs and their university career and alumni centers,” Luzader said. “Obviously, even if an interview is virtual, they want you to dress the part and make a professional appearance.
Financial resources to make ends meet
Many peoples’ finances are taking a hit during the economic downturn, while others are preparing for economic uncertainty ahead, both of which are stressful experiences, said Naomi Bechtold, a Purdue Extension specialist in family resource management and an accredited financial counselor.
“The first thing people are experiencing is a tremendous amount of stress,” Bechtold said. “Don’t blame yourself. Don’t keep this anxiety bottled up, and take things one at a time. If you’re busy panicking, you can’t do anything else. Take a deep breath.”
People facing unemployment or reduced income can use these tips and resources available through Purdue Extension and other organizations to safeguard their finances and apply for public assistance, Bechtold said.
- Create a spending/saving plan, learn how to manage stress and seek other resources by using nine Purdue Extension fact sheets on maintaining financial control during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Visit Aunt Bertha to find a variety of local, community-specific resources for income assistance, housing needs, education needs, food needs, transportation and other social services.
- Contact your township trustee for income assistance.
- Call Indiana 211 or visit online.
Writer: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541, email@example.com
Sources: Timothy Bond, firstname.lastname@example.org (also available for phone and webcam interviews)
Timothy Luzader, email@example.com (also available for phone and webcam interviews)
Naomi Bechtold, firstname.lastname@example.org (also available for phone and webcam interviews)
Note to Journalists: Local unemployment illustrations and photographs of the sources are available to journalists via Google Drive.