Northwest States See Unprecedented Surge In Unemployment Claims

File photo. Porter Hahn makes an iced coffee drink in November 2019 in a Seattle coffee shop. U.S. services companies grew at a faster pace in February 2020 than the previous month. Then the coronavirus outbreak in the region shut down much of the service industry. CREDIT: Elaine Thompson/AP
File photo. Porter Hahn makes an iced coffee drink in November 2019 in a Seattle coffee shop. U.S. services companies grew at a faster pace in February 2020 than the previous month. Then the coronavirus outbreak in the region shut down much of the service industry. CREDIT: Elaine Thompson/AP

READ ON

QUICK LINKS FOR STATE UNEMPLOYMENT:

Washington / Oregon / Idaho

BY TOM BANSE & DEBORAH WANG

Mirroring the national trend, Washington, Oregon and Idaho are experiencing an unprecedented spike in unemployment claims caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the last week, 133,464 Washingtonians, 76,500 Oregonians and over 13,000 Idahoans filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits. In Oregon, that represents a 15-fold increase in claims from the previous week. In Washington, the increase was more than eight-fold. In Idaho, that was a 1,200% increase over the previous week.

ALSO SEE: Coronavirus News, Updates, Resources From NWPB

“We haven’t seen anything like this in volume and velocity in the history of our unemployment insurance program going back to the 1930s,” said Suzi LeVine, the commissioner of the Washington Employment Security Department. The number of weekly unemployment claims was five times higher than during the peak week of the 2008-2009 recession.

As you might expect, the industries with the biggest surges in layoffs were accommodations and food service. Arts and entertainment also saw “phenomenal” job losses and retail trade registered bigtime.

In Washington, Spokane County experienced the highest rate of increase in claims for the week ended March 23. Snohomish and San Juan counties also recorded staggering percentage increases.

State officials cautioned the numbers may continue to rise in the coming weeks.

“Right now, just from a pure policy perspective and with the shelter in place that is taking place, I have a feeling that we are going to continue to see a large amount of growth when it comes to our initial claims. It has not peaked yet,” said Steve Ross, the labor market information director for the Washington Employment Security Department.

Commissioner LeVine says the department now has three clear priorities: to expand eligibility for benefits, to get benefits out more quickly to those who are eligible, and to help employers find staff for essential jobs.

The department is adding call center and processing staff as fast as it can, but applicants may still encounter trouble filing.

LeVine noted that significant numbers of new jobs are opening up in the grocery, health care, warehouse and package delivery sectors. Unemployment counselors are encouraging the newly laid off to consider switching to a new employer.

ALSO SEE: Coronavirus News, Updates, Resources From NWPB

Related Stories:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, shown here in a hospital in Denver. CREDIT: David Zalubowski/AP

U.S. Recommends Pausing Use Of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Over Blood Clot Concerns

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday they are recommending a “pause” in the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an “abundance of caution” while a review of reports of rare, potentially dangerous blood clots is conducted. Continue Reading U.S. Recommends Pausing Use Of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Over Blood Clot Concerns

Victor Hamilton displays a photo of his late wife, Nancy "Nicki" Hamilton, who died about a year earlier after contracting COVID-19 at a choir practice, Thursday, April 8, 2021, at his home in Mount Vernon, Wash. The choir practice in sickened 53 people and killed two, becoming one of the first known COVID-19 superspreader events in the United States. CREDIT: Elaine Thompson/AP

Family Finds Closure, A Year After Infamous COVID-19 Superspreader At Washington Choir Practice

The rehearsal of the Skagit Valley Chorale, a community choir made up mostly of retirees and not associated with the church where they practiced, happened two weeks before Gov. Jay Inslee shut down the state. The choir had taken the precautions known at the time, such as distancing themselves and sanitizing. But someone had the virus. Continue Reading Family Finds Closure, A Year After Infamous COVID-19 Superspreader At Washington Choir Practice