Pulse on the Pandemic in Douglas, Coos, and Curry Counties

by Polly Farrimond

September 11, 2020

With unemployment rates still at or close to double-digit levels in Southwestern Oregon, we now have several months’ worth of labor market information since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trends in employment, unemployment insurance claims, and benefits paid shed light on how the labor market has been impacted by the pandemic.

Jobs Added Back to the Workforce

Job losses spiked with the onset of the pandemic in spring 2020 as business closures and restrictions took effect to slow the spread of COVID-19. Using seasonally adjusted numbers, Coos County first shed 3,290 jobs and then recovered 940 jobs in the first seven months of the year. In Coos County there are an estimated 10 percent fewer jobs in July compared with the total nonfarm employment peak in January. After shedding 1,210 jobs earlier this year, Curry County has recovered an estimated 310 jobs. Curry County had 13 percent fewer jobs in July than its peak in January 2020. Douglas County lost an estimated 4,850 jobs between January and April and has since recovered 1,500 jobs. Douglas County estimated 8.6 percent fewer jobs in July than its peak in January.

Oregon’s total nonfarm employment declined nearly 14 percent, or rather 271,900 between February and April 2020. Initial losses were heaviest in industries most impacted by social distancing. Since April, Oregon has recovered 38 percent of the jobs that were lost, accounting for a total of 103,600 jobs. In July, Oregon still had 8.6 percent of the jobs to gain back to reach the February 2020 peak.

Total Benefits Paid

Douglas County regular unemployment claims paid out to claimants have totaled $63,936,986 since March 2020. Coos County unemployment claim payments have totaled $43,833,776. Curry County unemployment claims have totaled $13,541,253. Oregon has paid out claims that total $3,570,134,670 since March 2020.

These dollar amounts include the regular Unemployment Insurance programs and the various CARES Act programs, but they do not include the benefits paid out for the Pandemic Assistance program.

Initial Claims since January 2020

Douglas County residents have filed a total of 17,070 unemployment insurance claims since January 2020. Between July and August, initial claims in Douglas County increased by 1,462. Coos County unemployment insurance claims totaled 4,412. Curry County residents have filed 2,936 unemployment insurance claims. Oregon initial claims total 495,415 so far in 2020.

These initial claims represent individuals who have filed an initial application for unemployment insurance. Whether they qualify or not does not affect these figures.
Continued Claims since January 2020

Continued claims measure claimants who have already filed an initial claim, qualified to receive UI benefits, and filed a weekly claim to continue to receive benefits. Continued claims can also be referred to as insured unemployment. The count of continued claims can be a good indicator of labor market conditions.

Coos County experienced a high of 3,144 continued claims in April of this year. The current data show continued claims to be around 1,789 total claimants. Curry County reach a peak of 951 claims in April of this year. The current data show Curry County at 547 claims. Douglas County’s peak of continued claims also occurred in April of this year at 4,683. There are still 2,470 claims as of July.

The top three industries affected in Coos, Curry, and Douglas counties are accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, and retail trade.
As a point of reference, Oregon continued unemployment claims totaled an estimated 777,316 since the beginning of 2020.

In the coming months our recovery is likely to be slow based on the pace that people are returning to the work place. There are so many unknowns and until a solution to stop the spread of COVID-19 is in place the workforce will continue to be impacted by the number of cases in the counties.

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