Unemployment Claims Surge in Linn and Benton Counties

by Pat O'Connor

May 15, 2020

Measures in Oregon to limit the spread of COVID-19 have led to a sharp increase in the number of workers applying for unemployment insurance. Statewide, the Oregon Employment Department has received more than 381,800 initial claims since COVID-19 business closures began in mid-March. 

Initial unemployment claims over the past seven weeks ending May 2nd have surged in Oregon and the Willamette Valley. Since mid-March, 11,945 initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims have been processed for residents in Benton and Linn counties.

Benton County has had 4,274 initial UI claims since mid-March. To put that in perspective, Benton County has a labor force of roughly 49,000. The initial UI claims processed over the seven-week period represent 8.7 percent of Benton County’s labor force.

Linn County has had 7,671 initial UI claims since mid-March. Linn County has a labor force of roughly 59,000. The initial UI claims processed over the seven-week period represent 13.0 percent of Linn County’s labor force.

Claims by Industry

Three industries account for more than half (54%) of the initial UI claims processed in Linn and Benton counties. As we might expect, accommodation and food services had many claims with nearly 2,200 claims since mid-March, accounting for 18 percent of all claims. However, health care and social assistance accounted for the most initial UI claims processed over the past seven weeks, with nearly 2,400 claims, representing 20 percent of all claims. Manufacturing was not far behind with nearly 1,900 processed claims over this time period, representing 16 percent of all claims. Those initial UI claims in manufacturing has been disproportionally in Linn County, where 1,523 claims in manufacturing represent 20 percent of all claims in Linn County.
Retail trade is the sector with the next largest share of initial UI claims. Retail trade had 852 initial UI claims processed since mid-March in Linn and Benton counties, representing 11 percent of total claims.

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