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Record number of CT residents out of work, unemployment agencies watching for resilient industries in coronavirus outbreak


HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut is hemorrhaging jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Unemployment agencies say they are assisting more jobless residents than ever before.

RELATED: Coronavirus closes businesses: Nearly 100,000 have applied for unemployment, CT Department of Labor says

Since Friday, 27,000 people have applied for unemployment. That brings the total number of jobless claims to nearly 100,000 in just over a week. And the numbers are expected to worsen as more businesses shut their doors due to coronavirus health concerns.

With state and federal help promised but still in the pipeline, employers are scrambling to deal with the economic fallout.

Lori Hershman owns three toy stores: one in Orange, one in Guildford, and one in Hamden. She is closing to all foot traffic Monday night as part of Governor Ned Lamont’s edict to nonessential businesses.

RELATED: What’s still open under Gov. Lamont’s coronavirus social-distancing policy, ‘Stay Safe, Stay Home’

“I had to let all 10 employees of the three stores temporarily go. I don’t know how long it will last or when we’ll all be back at work. It’s all a puzzle right now,” said Hershman.

Hershman’s workers will now join the record, rapid number of people out of work in Connecticut. The job losses have come in waves, battering the state’s financial future.

A week ago, restaurants and bars shut their doors, followed by barbers and hair salons. Now, all nonessential businesses are ordered to close.

RELATED: Gov. Lamont announces closure of salons, barber shops; postpones state’s Presidential primary

Elaine Kaiser, managing director of Kaiser Whitney Staffing (an unemployment agency in New Haven) explained, “We have everything from warehouse people, to paralegals…and we’ve had just about every walk of life who have unfortunately been laid off or furloughed.”

Kaiser’s phone has been ringing off the hook.

“People are very scared, very worried. People have cried saying they’ve been laid off and they don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Kaiser, “Even employers have called. They’re fearful, too. They don’t know what the future is going to hold.”

Kaiser says she’s telling the jobless to hang in there. She says this is temporary and there is light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps as soon as late spring. And, she’s paying close attention to employers in industries that are well-suited to weather this kind of storm.

“Medical is going to be the main business right now,” said Kaiser.

Toy store owner Hershman says she’s found the uncertainty frustrating. For now, she’s hoping to set up a curbside ordering system under the new guidelines. Her customers say she’s essential to their new normal—having the whole family at home and in need of workbooks, board games, puzzles and other items.

“If we can’t come for a few months, we thought we’d stock up,” said customer Lauren Wholey Monday afternoon, hours before Hershman’s store Evans Toys in Hamden closed indefinitely.

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