Eastern Oregon UI Claims Signal Significant Change in Second Quarter

by Christopher Rich

April 29, 2020

Unemployment insurance claims rose sharply since the start of measures aimed at curtailing COVID-19. Public health measures began the week of March 15. Since then, the Oregon Employment Department received roughly 333,700 initial claims for unemployment benefits. In comparison, the Employment Department received just 18,288 initial claims during the comparable five-week period in 2019 (March 17 to April 20) and 17,674 initial claims during the five-week period just prior to the curtailment measures (February 9 to March 14, 2020). During the most recent week for which data is available, April 12 to April 18, the Employment Department received 36,700 initial claims.

Significant Change Is Apparent

The economic impact of this pandemic won’t begin to show in our monthly employment estimates (CES data) until May. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage data (QCEW) for second quarter 2020, which allows us to look at wages and detailed sub-industries, won’t be available until October. However, initial unemployment insurance claims signal the employment situation is significantly changing. The Employment Department has detailed information on processed claims that includes the county and industry of the worker making the claim. Comparing claims data with second quarter 2019 QCEW data allows for a preliminary look at some likely employment impacts.

In Eastern Oregon, initial claims have surged to 5,907 processed claims for the five-week period, March 15 to April 20. This represents a significant increase above the 1,038 claims processed during the comparable five-week period in 2019 and the 935 claims processed during the five-week period leading to March 15. All Eastern Oregon counties have seen a relatively large upswing in unemployment insurance claims. Two-thirds of claims have come from three industries: accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and health care and social assistance. Retail trade and construction have also seen a significant upswing. Together, these five industries account for 80 percent of Eastern Oregon’s processed UI claims over the last five weeks. These industries accounted for 56 percent of Eastern Oregon’s private-sector employment in second quarter 2019.
Three Hardest Hit

Accommodation and food services workers submitted the largest share of Eastern Oregon’s UI claims, 1,627 or 28 percent of all claims. Restaurants and bars saw an early impact with the prohibition of on-premises consumption of food or drink that began on March 17. Many firms in the industry have tried to remain open by shifting to take-out and delivery only. For many, this was likely not their core pre-COVID business model. The shift has required large curtailments of staff. Accommodation and food services accounted for 11 percent of the region’s private-sector employment in second quarter 2019. Claims processed from the industry represent just over one-fourth of the industry’s second quarter 2019 employment level. 

Manufacturing workers submitted the second largest number of claims in the region, 1,479 or one-fourth of all claims. Umatilla and Union counties saw the lion’s share of manufacturing’s claimants. While manufacturing firms were not required to close up shop or make significant alterations to their business models, greatly reduced activities in recreation, restaurant, and entertainment venues have slowed demand for many products produced by Eastern Oregon manufacturers. As construction activities continue to slow nationally, wood product manufacturers will also likely shift employment levels in line with falling demand. Manufacturing accounted for roughly 15 percent of the region’s private-sector employment in second quarter 2019. Claims processed from the industry represent just over 17 percent of the industry’s second quarter 2019 employment level.

Health care and social assistance workers submitted the third largest number of claims, 806 or roughly 14 percent of all claims. This industry has seen a relatively large number of claims due to the mandated cancelling or rescheduling of elective and non-urgent procedures that require the use of personal protective equipment. Health care and social assistance accounted for just over 11 percent of the region’s private-sector employment in second quarter 2019. Claims processed from the industry represent just over 12 percent of the industry’s second quarter 2019 employment level.
Accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and health care and social assistance together account for a little over one-third of Eastern Oregon’s private-sector employment. The addition of retail trade and construction brings the five-industry employment total to 56 percent. UI claims from retail trade represent 6 percent of retail’s second quarter 2019 employment. UI claims from construction represent 10 percent of its employment. Altogether, UI claims from the five-industry group represent 15 percent of the group’s second quarter 2019 employment.

The Oregon Employment Department will release initial claims data every Thursday for the foreseeable future. Find this and other COVID-19 related employment information on our COVID-19 page on QualityInfo.org.


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