AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A study conducted by the Pioneer Institute shows Amherst with one of the highest unemployment rates in western Massachusetts.

The big reason why it’s a college town.

The owner of LimeRed Teahouse says once they had to go to take-out only, he had to lay off 85 percent of his staff. The majority of them were college students.

Joe Dang is one of many small business owners adjusting to a new normal while trying to stay afloat with a limited staff. When he first had to lay people off, he had to bring the bad news to lots of college students who worked for him.

“Upfront at the Teahouse a lot of our employees are college students. They were particularly hit very hard. As I had to make sure that I had enough staff to stick through," Dang explained.

Dang said with many precautions in place, customers and employees are left are frustrated, but that’s not stopping him from looking to bring jobs back.

Once Governor Charlie Baker announces which industries can move forward in the state's four-phase coronavirus reopening plan, Dang told Western Mass News that he will have to adjust accordingly.

“Our new normal is we have to run our drinks from the front out the counter now to the front. That’s causing an additional step that we didn’t have before. So even business might not warrant an extra person, we have to have an extra person because there’s a job called running a drink from the bar to the front that we didn’t have before, said Pioneer Institute's research analysts Rebekah Paxton.

Paxton told Western Mass News that part of the reason why Amherst is at a 39 percent unemployment rate is because of the type of jobs college students get.

“One of the reasons generally we’re seeing certain hot spots in certain areas is because there’s probably a high percentage of people who lost their jobs because they were laid off because they were part-time, non-essential, what have you," Paxton noted.

Paxton also said that even when the Bay State starts to slowly open back up on Monday, unemployment numbers could continue to rise before it starts to go down.

If you are looking for more information on the data collected by the Pioneer Institute, you can click here.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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