Northwest States See Unprecedented Surge In Unemployment Claims
QUICK LINKS FOR STATE UNEMPLOYMENT:
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.
“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.
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
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are opening a two-day mass vaccination event to any resident age 16 and above who resides in the 11 counties that span the tribes’ ceded territory. The offer is open to anyone, not just tribal members. Continue Reading Confederated Tribes Of The Umatilla Reservation Open Vaccines To Anyone In 11 Counties
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