WORTHINGTON — Statewide, more than 450,400 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment insurance benefits after their jobs were eliminated as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The impacts can be found all across the state, in large cities and small communities, and the biggest concern — the greatest uncertainty — is how long it will take for some of those jobs to return.

Between March 16 and April 12, more than 2,300 residents in the six counties of far southwest Minnesota submitted claims for unemployment insurance with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). It’s believed there are more individuals who have lost jobs and for whatever reason have not yet filed, are still waiting for their application to be approved, or are ineligible for unemployment insurance.

Luke Greiner, southwest regional analyst for DEED, said Tuesday that Nobles County’s current applications for unemployment insurance — at 592 — compares to just 29 applications in the county in February, 17 filings in March 2019 and 29 in April 2019.

DEED reports as of April 12 show unemployment insurance applications from neighboring counties at 422 in Jackson; 293 in Rock; 256 in Pipestone; 328 in Murray; and 418 in Cottonwood.

Due to the fallout of COVID-19, the state has waived the one-week waiting period to file for unemployment insurance. Processing times for applications and payment requests are being handled as efficiently as possible, with most payments authorized within one to two weeks, Greiner shared.

Jobs lost in the southwest corner of the state are an accurate reflection of what is being seen statewide, Greiner noted, with employees in the food service industry (restaurants and bars) impacted at the greatest level.

While county-specific data on the types of jobs impacted isn’t available, Greiner pointed to labor market information broken down by region, which is available on the DEED website. Southwest Minnesota is part of the 23-county Region 8, which extends from the Iowa and South Dakota state lines north to Big Stone and Swift counties and east to Le Sueur and Waseca counties.

Within those 23 counties, food and beverage servers filed the most unemployment insurance claims at 2,021 since mid-March, followed by retail sales workers (1,025); cooks and food prep workers (1,017), construction trade workers (904), and other production occupations (704).

As for the ages of those individuals who have filed for unemployment insurance, those ages ages 25 to 34 filed the most claims at 4,295, followed by ages 35-44 (3,614 claims), 55-64 (2,883); 20-24 (2,656); and 45-54 (2,655).

Individuals classified as having some college education filed the largest number of claims at 5,950, followed by those with a high school education (5,852). Females outpaced males with claims, 10,627 to 7,009.

Individuals who apply for unemployment insurance are expected to look for a new job while they are receiving benefits, and Greiner said individuals in this part of the state have ample opportunity to secure employment within the region.

According to the statewide job bank, Minnesota Works.net, Greiner said 77 new jobs were posted in Nobles County alone within the past three weeks.

“There’s definitely segments that have ramped up hiring — grocery stores, some of the retailers that are still providing services,” Greiner said. “There’s definitely a need. It’s not like our economy has stopped by any means; our labor has shifted.”

Within Nobles County, job opportunities exist within the health system, meat processing sector, grocery industry, construction and contracting sector, and pizza parlors, among others.

“It’s good to see,” Greiner said of the mix of offerings.

It’s also good to see that there are options for people who don’t know when or if their employer will be able to hire them back.

“There’s so much we don’t know,” Greiner said of the COVID-19 impact. “I’m sure that every week that this goes on is making business owners shift their strategy.

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s so many variables — so many unknowns.”