Food industry jobs take a hit as record number of Americans file for unemployment

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In the Mid-South, government officials expected unemployment numbers would be high due to the spread of COVID-19.

One specific community that is suffering is the food service industry. So many people now without jobs told WREG they are sick to their stomach not knowing what’s to come.

"It’s taxing trying to keep my head afloat and not drown in this craziness," Josh McLane, owner of Hi-Tone Kitchen, said.

McLane said he had to adapt due to the coronavirus outbreak. He said he has been doing curbside food service.

After the city started adding restrictions to restaurants last week, things took a turn.

"I know hundreds of people who are out of jobs, like everybody who worked here," McLane said. "There’s nothing for them to do now."

Not to mention the hundreds of others in the restaurant community who are now out of work.

Then add places like gyms, beauty salons, retail stores and more to that list.

"It just sucks," McLane said. "There’s no one to straight blame it on, necessarily. It just sucks. Almost all of my friends are trying to figure out how they’re going to make money."

Last week, Americans displaced by the coronavirus filed unemployment in record numbers.

Looking at the numbers locally, officials said Tennessee took a tremendous hit.

In the week of March 14, there were just over 2,700 claims in the state. Last week, there were 39,096.

The state said it's training 200 employees just to handle unemployment claims.

In Arkansas, the numbers went from 1,382 to 8,958, and in Mississippi, 1,147 to 6,723.

"Everybody is looking for a job they can do right now," McLane said.

McLane said right now, he’s thankful he can keep his kitchen going.

"The fact that people miss my food at all and wanted to come back is amazing," he said.

But unfortunately, he doesn’t know what the next day could bring.

"No idea," he said. "It messes me up. Can’t buy food for a couple weeks because I have no idea. If this gets any worse, they could straight up shut down the city."

McLane also is part of a band and had to stop touring, which took a hit to his bank account like so many other local musicians.

If you need to file for unemployment in Arkansas, Mississippi or Tennessee, click one of these links.

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