The flood of layoffs at the height of the pandemic has turned into a trickle, but most people who lost their jobs since March have not returned to work.
A month after Phase 1 of the governor’s reopening plan began in most of the state – and two weeks after the beginning of Phase 2 – weekly claims for unemployment insurance benefits remain stubbornly high both in Fauquier County and Virginia as a whole.
On Thursday the Virginia Employment Commission released the latest data on unemployment claims around the state; the most recent filing week ended on June 13.
There are two kinds of unemployment claims: initial claims - the first time an individual files for benefits - and continued claims, for those who were previously approved but remain unemployed.
Initial claims both in Fauquier County and the state as a whole are far below their peak, which occurred in early April. During the week ending April 4, 1,029 Fauquier residents filed an initial unemployment claim. During the most recent filing week, that number was only 79. However, during that same week ending June 13, 2,179 Fauquier workers filed a continued claim.
The total of initial and continued claims, 2,258, accounted for 6.1% of the estimated 36,071 county residents in the labor force as measured in April. (Labor force data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
Put another way, initial claims in Fauquier County are down 92% since the peak of initial claims numbers. Continued claims, however, are down only 13% since the May 9 peak.
Still, the labor force in Fauquier County has generally fared better than in Virginia as a whole. The number of initial claims for the week ending June 13 stood at 27,186 statewide, down 82% since April 4. Continued claims during the same week are down only 4% from their May 16 peak. In total, 414,079 Virginia residents filed either an initial or continued claim last week, representing 9.3% of the state’s resident labor force.
Keeping with recent trends, the employment situation in Fauquier County – while still dire in an historical context - is significantly better than the state average. The official seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in April – which uses data obtained from a representative survey of workers, not just the number of unemployment claims - was 14.7% nationally, 10.6% in Virginia and 8.8% in Fauquier County.
According to the BLS, the national unemployment rate for May was 13.3%. State and local unemployment data for May will be released later this month.
Continued claims by food service, accommodation workers still near peak
Although restaurants around the state have been able to resume indoor table service in recent weeks, the number of continued claims by food service or accommodation workers has only fallen 2.3% since the May 23 peak. In Virginia, 91,046 workers in that industry filed a continued claim during the week ending June 13, accounting for 24% of all continued claims filed in the state that week.
The retail and health care sectors, which accounted for the second- and third-most continued claims during the week ending June 13, have improved more quickly. Continued claims by retail workers are down 11% since the May 16 peak, and health care claims are down 19% since the May 9 peak for that industry.
Unemployment is not declining in every industry. For instance, continued claims have steadily increased in recent weeks from Virginia residents who were employed in “administrative and support and waste management and remediation services.”
The industry designation encompasses “office administration, hiring and placing of personnel, document preparation and similar clerical services, solicitation, collection, security and surveillance services, cleaning and waste disposal services,” according the BLS. If recent trends continue, these workers may soon account for more continued claims than in the health care sector.
As the academic year ends and uncertainty remains about the upcoming school year, a slowly increasing number of Virginia residents who were employed in an educational field are also filing continued claims. Although these claims accounted for only 3.5% of the total last week, this percentage could steadily increase if trends continue.