photo_ft_news_VEC initial claims map_20200530

A map charts initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits filed during the week ending May 30 by zip code.

On Thursday, June 4, the Virginia Employment Commission released the latest weekly statistics on claims for unemployment insurance by Virginia residents. The latest filing week ended on May 30.

In that week, 112 Fauquier County residents filed an initial claim for unemployment insurance, down 31% from the previous week. In the 11 weeks since March 14 – when mass layoffs began – 4,707 initial claims for unemployment insurance have been filed by county residents.

Continued weekly claims (for those who had already filed for unemployment and been approved) stood at 2,390 in the county as of May 30, down only 3% from the previous week.

The total of initial and continued claims by county residents in the week ending May 30 account for approximately 7% of the estimated 36,071 residents in the labor force as measured in April. This percentage has changed very little in the previous three weeks, despite the lifting of some restrictions put in place during the novel coronavirus pandemic. (The labor force estimate comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

If data from April proves predictive, the real unemployment rate in Fauquier County could be significantly higher than 7%.

During the week ending April 18, for instance, the cumulative total of initial and continued claims filed by county residents accounted for 6% of the estimated labor force as measured the previous month. However, during that same week, the more comprehensive BLS survey found that 8.8% of the Fauquier labor force was unemployed.

Phase 1 of Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions began in most of the state – including Fauquier County – on May 15. However, populous localities in Northern Virginia did not enter Phase 1 until May 29. Phase 2, which will allow restaurants to again offer indoor table service and other businesses to welcome customers inside their buildings, begins in most of the state on June 5, but not in Northern Virginia or Richmond.

Statewide, in the week ending May 30, 31,379 workers filed initial claims for unemployment benefits, down 20% from the previous week.

For the second consecutive week, continued claims statewide declined, but only slightly. Continued weekly claims stood at 398,411 in Virginia, a 1.1% decrease from the previous week. There were only 18,453 continued claims filed statewide last year during the comparable week.

(VEC unemployment data are not seasonally adjusted.)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance accounts for large share of claims

The federal CARES Act created a program called Pandemic Unemployment Insurance that provides unemployment insurance benefits to workers who would not usually be covered under the Virginia unemployment insurance program, including “self-employed, independent contractors, workers with limited work history, and others,” according to the VEC.

Claims made through PUA make up a large minority of claims made during the most recent filing week, accounting for 28% of initial claims and 48% of continued claims, roughly in line with previous weeks.

This indicates that the number of workers filing unemployment insurance claims in Virginia would be significantly smaller – though still at historically high levels – had the federal government not created the program, making it more difficult to compare in real time the current employment situation to historical data.

New unemployment claims continue gradual decline nationally

Nationwide, the number of seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance totaled 1.9 million for the week ending May 30, a decrease of 12% from the previous week’s revised total. More than 40 million workers throughout the country have filed at least an initial claim since March 14.

The unemployment rate for April was announced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics at 14.7%, the highest seasonally adjusted rate recorded since that statistic was first introduced in 1947. The household survey, which along with a survey of firms is the basis for the BLS employment calculations, was conducted from April 12 through April 18.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Virginia, however, was significantly lower, at 10.6%, than the national rate. The state’s unemployment rate ranked as the 13th-lowest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In neighboring Maryland, the April rate was even lower, at 9.9%.

The national unemployment rate for May will be released on June 5, with state and local data released later that month.

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