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Unemployment by the numbers: Bath County among hardest hit

A lawsuit against Florida regarding delays with its unemployment website continues moving forward in court. (MGN)
A lawsuit against Florida regarding delays with its unemployment website continues moving forward in court. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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Unemployment in the US right now is about 13 percent,

from last month as businesses have begun to welcome people back to work.

But leisure and hospitality jobs continue to take the hardest hit. In April, employment in Virginia in that sector fell by about

compared with the same time frame last year, according to the

.

"Tourism, meals and lodging, that's our bread and butter," said Eddy Hicklin.

Hicklin is Chair of the Board of Supervisors in Bath County, which, according to VEC's April numbers, had the highest rate of unemployment in Virginia at

. That's twice the statewide average. And yet, Bath County has not recorded a single case of

.

"I see a lot of people struggling," he said. "Obviously our largest employer is closed down. A lot of local bed and breakfasts are struggling."

He's referring to the closure of the Omni Homestead, which, according to a company spokesperson, furloughed about 700 employees. Hicklin said being one of the smallest counties in the state and having its largest employer closed created the large unemployment percentage.

That spokesperson for the Homestead told WDBJ7 in an email that furloughs left a core staff of about 50 people to protect the hotel and keep the property prepared for reopening, including leadership, engineering, grounds and golf maintenance teams.

"As a privately held company," the email stated, "we do not disclose financial information; however, the impact to The Homestead and the local community has been significant."

Hicklin said the lack of tourism means meals and lodging tax revenue is down almost 90 percent.

"We raised real estate and personal property tax," he said. "But that's not gonna fix the issue. We obviously need to get this virus out of here and get it opened back up again."

The spokesperson for the Homestead said Wednesday they're hoping for a modified reopen by June 29, noting they plan to have the golf, horseback riding, shooting club, Serenity Garden, indoor and outdoor pools, hiking and mountain biking open.

Hicklin said in the meantime, the county has secured about $361,000 in grants for small businesses.

"You know, we're doing what we can to get people back in business and not really get them back in business but help them stay afloat," he said.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission,

Virginia cities, counties and towns with the highest unemployment rate are within the WDBJ7 coverage area.

VEC's website also looks at other

among unemployed Virginians.

According to its data, more than half of the claimants are women. Most are between the ages of 16 and 34. Forty five percent are white and 37.5 percent are black. For context, according to the US Census, 69.5 percent of Virginia's total population is white, 19.9 percent are black.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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