South Coast Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance

by Guy Tauer

April 15, 2020

Oregon workers who have lost their jobs, been temporarily laid off, or had hours drastically reduced filed 269,900 initial unemployment insurance claims in the three-week period ending on April 4, 2020. This is a truly staggering and unprecedented increase in demand for unemployment insurance benefits and challenging the systems and processes in place to handle claims activity. Know that the Oregon Employment Department is marshalling resources as quickly as possible to rise to this level of need. After bolstering our workforce and realigning resources to meet this demand, we processed 10,000 unemployment insurance claims in one day recently. Our hearts are with all of those who have lost their jobs or are on temporary layoff and especially those who have been touched by the coronavirus pandemic directly.

The nation also saw record unemployment insurance claims activity during the past couple of weeks, with about 6.6 million initial claims recorded in the country during the past week ending April 4, 2020. While the national March payroll employment figures were just released showing a decline of 700,000 payroll jobs, the true toll of the recent spike in unemployment claims and job reductions won’t show up in earnest until the April monthly employment and labor force data are released. For Oregon’s counties, that will be in late May.

An early look at what industries are likely to see job losses reported in next month’s employment data might be seen in unemployment insurance claims filed by industry and county. This is far from a perfect yardstick to measure overall economic or employment impact for a number of reasons. We have industry and county detail for 117,100 claims that were processed in the three weeks ending April 4, 2020. Of course many workers that were impacted may not file for unemployment or be eligible. Or they could have had difficulty accessing overwhelmed phone lines if they were not able to complete their applications online. This is administrative information, and while not perfect way to calculate the impact, some general inferences can be drawn. This event has no precedent or roadmap from which to draw conclusions about medium- or long-term effects. The scale and breadth of industries that are showing this rapid rise in unemployment insurance claims is also unsettling.

Rising Unemployment Insurance Claims Portent to Economy-Wide Job Losses

The South Coast accounted for about 2 percent of the roughly 117,100 initial unemployment claims filed in the three-week period ending April 4, 2020. In other words, we have industry detail regarding almost 2,290 initial claims filed in the South Coast, but these are just a portion of ALL claims filed during that time.

In Coos County during the three week period ending on April 4, 2020, there were 1,806 claims processed. Contrast that to the prior three-week period ending March 14, when 190 initial unemployment insurance claims were processed. Curry County saw a similar spike, with claims over the same time periods rising from 68 to 482. Initial claims filed from the most recent three-week period at the South Coast were concentrated, as you would expect, in the accommodation and food services industry, with more nearly 450 claims filed.

The second largest number of initial claims processed was in the health care and social assistance industry, with almost 180 claims processed in the most recent three-week period. In past swings in the business cycle, the health care and social assistance industry has been touted for being recession resistant. During the Great Recession, the longer-term growth trend in that industry just slowed slightly before continuing to expand. But in this sudden economic contraction, we have seen even that industry impacted by reduced activity, as non-urgent medical and dental procedures as well as other elective medical care have been postponed.

Retail trade, with many stores and retail complexes curtailing operations, saw nearly 90 claims processed. A couple industries you might presume wouldn’t be impacted so quickly have already seen an uptick in claims – construction (+82) and manufacturing (+79).
For the time being, we will be issuing the latest data regarding weekly new unemployment insurance claims every Thursday at 10:00 a.m. and you can visit our website for more details about this information at https://www.QualityInfo.org/covid-19.


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