According to the latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission, initial claims for unemployment benefits rose in both Fauquier County and Virginia as a whole during the latest filing week, which ended June 27. This is the first time that initial claims have increased since the week ending April 4, having steadily declined since that peak.

For Fauquier County residents during the week ending June 27, 100 initial claims were approved, up from 72 during the previous week. In Virginia, 31,955 residents had their initial claims approved, an increase of more than 6,000 from the week before.

Because weekly continued claims have continued to decline, the total number of residents receiving unemployment benefits was flat in Virginia and down slightly in Fauquier County. A total of 2,109 county residents received benefits last week, a week-over-week decrease of 2.2%.

(An initial claim represents the first time an individual applies for unemployment insurance after being laid off; a continued claim represents an individual who has previously been approved for benefits and continues to receive benefits during that week.)

VEC Senior Economist Timothy Aylor said Thursday that he has not seen any evidence that the increase in initial claims was due to an issue with the benefits application system, though he left open the possibility that processing “bottlenecks” may affect weekly claims data slightly as unemployment offices deal with a record number of claims.

The increase in initial claims, he said, most likely represents a real increase in layoffs which might be attributable to several factors. Some factors that might have affected claims data are seasonal, he explained, as demand usually drops during the summer for food service and recreation businesses.

“I feel like we were due for a fluctuation,” he said, adding that the increase in initial claims was “substantial” but that not enough data was available to establish a trend. Next week’s claims statistics will be important in determining the significance of the increase.

National unemployment rate for June announced at 11.1%

On Thursday the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released national unemployment data for the month of June. The seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate for that month was 11.1%, down almost two percentage points from May but still higher than any seasonally adjusted rate recorded before the pandemic. State and local data for June will be released later this month.

“These improvements in the labor market reflected the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,” a BLS press release said.

Unemployment in Fauquier County lower than state, national trends

Local unemployment data for the month of May, released by the BLS on Wednesday, make it possible to compare in retrospect the official unemployment rates for the U.S., states and localities. The employment situation in Fauquier County has consistently outperformed state and national statistics.

For instance, the unemployment rate as measured in mid-May was 13% nationally, 9.2% in Virginia and 7.2% in Fauquier County. April’s data followed a similar pattern, with 14.4% unemployment in the U.S., 10.8% in Virginia and 8.7% in Fauquier County. (BLS data are seasonally adjusted.)

A less precise but more timely method of gauging the unemployment situation is to compare the total number of unemployment claims approved in any given week to the total number of individuals in the labor force. Using this metric, 12.2% of U.S. labor force (as measured in May) were approved for either an initial or continued claim during the week ending June 27, compared to 9% in Virginia and 5.6% for Fauquier County.

Reach Coy Ferrell at cferrell@fauquier.com

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