Columbia Basin COVID-19: 18-weeks of Initial Claims Activity

by Dallas Fridley

August 11, 2020

Initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in the Columbia Basin totaled nearly 6,100 over the 18-week, March 15 to July 18 period. COVID-19 business closures began in mid-March with nearly 1,800 claims during the first three weeks (March 15th to April 4th) or an average of 600 per week. During the second 3-week period (April 5th to April 25th), initial claims fell slightly, to 1,640 and by the third 3-week period (April 26th to May 16th) a substantial drop to fewer than 900 or an average of 300 per week. During the final nine weeks (May 17th to July 18th), initial claims averaged fewer than 200 filings per week.

At the county level, Umatilla’s initial claims reached just over 5,530 or 91 percent of the area’s total. Morrow County’s initial claims totaled about 550 or nine percent of all claims processed for the Columbia Basin.

As initial claims activity fell, the industry profile shifted slightly. During the first three week period (March 15th to April 4th), initial claims from manufacturing totaled 580 or 33 percent of the area’s 1,780 total. Accommodation and food services rose to 33 percent of initial claims (550) during the 2nd three week period (April 11th to April 25th), well ahead of manufacturing, with 19 percent (300). Over the next 12 weeks (April 26th to July 18th), manufacturing totaled 660 initial claims or 25 percent of the Columbia Basin total, while accommodation and food services rose by 490. In aggregate, initial claims from manufacturing totaled about 1,550, while accommodation and food services reached 1,560. Initial claims from health care and social assistance totaled 740 over the 18-week period, followed by retail trade with 580.

Ranked by industry, accommodation and food services represented 26 percent of the area’s initial unemployment insurance claims from March 15th to July 18th, followed by manufacturing, also with 26 percent. Health care and social assistance (12%); retail trade (10%); and, construction (4%) rounded out the top five industries, together representing 26 percent of the area’s initial claims. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (220) and other services (160) also produced a significant number of initial claims.

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