Two Columbia restaurants have indefinitely closed, victims of the economic malaise caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ruby Tuesday at 2010 Bernadette Drive and the Houlihan’s restaurant at 2541 Broadway Bluffs Drive have ceased operations.

It does not appear they will reopen. Phone lines are disconnected. Requests for comment sent to Ruby Tuesday’s public relations department and Houlihan’s headquarters in Leawood, Kansas, were not returned.

It’s unclear how many workers were affected due to these closures, but their sudden folding illustrates how the U.S. economy is rapidly contracting in response to "stay-at-home" orders issued to reduce cases of COVID-19 by community spread, according to some analysts.

There were 40,000 new unemployment compensation claims in Missouri in the week that ended March 21, data released Thursday shows. There were 4,000 the previous week. Nationally, there were 3.3 million new jobless claims.

In an updated projection published Wednesday by the Economic Policy Institute, "the national economy could lose 14 million jobs by summer 2020."

The progressive research group estimates that Missouri could lose 267,581 jobs in that time, or about 9% of its workforce. If Congress passes a targeted $2 trillion stimulus package, the report continued, "it could mitigate some of these losses ... yet many people will still need to remain out of work, potentially for months, in order to stop the virus’s spread."

In contrast to current economic estimates, the economy lost about 2.6 million jobs in 2008 during the first year of the Great Recession, according to the U.S Labor Department.

Despite the gloomy economic outlook, some Columbia-area grocery stores and restaurants are looking to rapidly hire over the next few months, and are targeting those individuals who may now be out of work due to layoffs.

In a recent news release, Dominos announced it wants to hire 10,000 people nationally.

"Our four stores in Columbia, and our store in Fulton, MO are hiring delivery drivers and managers-in-training," Domino's franchise owner Gregory Neichter said by email.

Part-time and full-time driver positions are available, with manager-in-training positions leading to potential franchise ownership, he said.

Like all businesses now remaining open, the pandemic has forced them to operate with caution and policy changes, Neichter said.

"We are providing contactless delivery and pre-tipping online for our delivery drivers," Neichter said.

Domino’s new policy also includes no-cash handling and the closure of its lobbies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to adhere to Boone County’s stay-at-home order.

Workers and applicants are being monitored for symptoms, and if any are displayed they are sent home for quarantine, Neichter said. Interviews are still being conducted in person, however.

Retail giant Dollar General wants to hire 50,000 people, joining other outlets such as Hy-Vee, Walmart, Amazon and CVS, which have also issued calls for workers.

Columbia has five Dollar General stores, with a distribution center located in Fulton.

Current postings are for the Fulton distribution center and include full-time and part-time positions.

"We are committed to providing a safe, healthful working and shopping environment," Dollar General spokesperson Angela Petkovic said in an email.

Dollar General is working to provide workers with protections if they suspect that they have been exposed to COVID-19, and those forced to "remain at home due to a confirmed case or exposure to care for an immediate family member or intimate partner will be paid for regularly scheduled hours during that time," she added.

Dollar General has recently promoted "Senior Hours," where the first hour of business is dedicated to groups particularly at risk if they contract coronavirus, and implemented purchase limitations to prevent panic buying, Petkovic said.

Chamber of Commerce president Matt McCormick said during the tumult of a changing job market that the community should visit its website for resources on COVID-19 and employment information.

"We just launched a resource page on our website with information regarding COVID-19, and it also has a form where businesses can update their own policy information" he said. "It’s also open to anybody, you don’t have to be a member, and we’re telling people that businesses can also post whether they are hiring."

Those looking for work, or businesses looking to hire, should investigate as a means to connect, he said. The portal is a resource provided by Missouri’s Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.

McCormick didn’t comment on current job losses in Columbia, but did say the restaurant and hospitality businesses in the area have been hit particularly hard. And the chamber is ramping up discussions on what to do to help local businesses.

"We are starting to have conversations now with a number of community partners — with REDI, the city and the county — that really starts looking at what we can do to address relief and recovery," he said. "For example, what money is going to be available at the local level that businesses can tap into if needed?"

The goal, he said, is to figure out what community partners can do for businesses and employees, and how they can do it quickly.