New unemployment claims slowing, but nearly 2,000 filed since shutdown

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~ PVN staff report

LURAY, May 11 — The number of new unemployment insurance claims being filed in Page County has decreased consistently over the past four weeks since hitting a peak of 556 for the one-week period ending April 4.

The Virginia Employment Commission reported on Thursday that 160 new claims were filed in Page County for the week ending May 2— a 13-percent decrease from the 184 filed the previous week.

Here is a breakdown of initial unemployment insurance claims filed in Page County over the past eight weeks:

  • 7 — Week ending March 14
  • 80 — March 21
  • 294 — March 28
  • 556 — April 4
  • 323 — April 11
  • 284 — April 18
  • 184 — April 25
  • 160 — May 1

In total, 1,888 new unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the county since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and all non-essential businesses were shut down in mid-March.

Of those, 1,507 were filed in April.

Looking at comparable neighbors during the same seven-week period, there have been 2,566 claims filed in Shenandoah County and 2,583 in Warren.

At the end of March, VEC reported that 703 people in Page County were unemployed among a workforce of 12,022. Of those, 294 claims were filed in the last week of the month.

Page’s unemployment rate for March was 5.8 percent — a slight increase from February’s 5.4 percent. In March 2019, the county’s jobless rate stood at 5.1 percent.

While the U.S. had a 4.5-percent unemployment rate in March with 7.4 million out of work, April’s rate jumped to 14.7 percent nationally with more than 20.5 million claims filed. The rate represented the highest number of jobless Americans since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The nation had hit a 50-year low of 3.5 percent unemployment in February before the seven-week shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced 33.5 million Americans to file for assistance.

April’s unemployment rate and jobs data for Virginia will be released by VEC in early June.

Statewide, continuing claims for unemployment insurance increased more than 10 percent for the week ending May 2 to 376,689 — but new claims decreased 17.7 percent to 59,631.

“Though the 17.7-percent decline indicates that the volume of initial claims [in Virginia] has retreated from its recent peak, it may not return to pre-pandemic levels for some time,” the VEC report stated on Thursday. “The continued claims total mainly comprised those recent initial claimants who continued to file for unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. That total is more than 10 percent of March private sector payroll employment in the Commonwealth.”

Fairfax County lead the state for that week in the number of unemployment insurance claims with 7,084. Prince William County and Virginia Beach followed with 3,562 and 3,118 initial claims, respectively.

Similar to the previous few weeks, the majority of localities in Virginia saw a decrease in new claims, with only 18 of 133 localities reporting an increase.

Nationwide, almost 3.2 million filed claims during the same week ending May 2. Most states showed decreases in the most recent week reported, while seven showed weekly increases in initial claims: Maryland (+27,337), Oklahoma (+15,737), New Jersey (+15,574), Maine (+8,514), New Mexico (+4,708), Puerto Rico (+4,387), and Connecticut (+3,125). 

Virginia’s weekly change was the 17th largest decline among states.

For additional information on who is claiming unemployment insurance in Virginia, access the VEC’s U.I. claims data dashboard (https://www.vec.virginia.gov/ui-claims-dashboard) that is updated the following Monday after the weekly claims press release.

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