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Another week of unemployment claims data released Thursday by the Virginia Employment Commission told a similar story to that of recent weeks. New layoffs in the Hampton Roads area are surging along with new cases of the novel coronavirus, and the overall employment situation in the rest of the state – including Fauquier County – is improving only slightly.

During the week ending July 25, 42,966 initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, representing workers filing claims for the first time after being laid off, were filed by Virginia residents. Though far below the April 4 peak of nearly 150,000, the weekly number of initial claims has risen steadily since mid-June, when 25,293 state residents filed a claim.

Of the initial claims filed last week in Virginia, more than one in four were filed by residents of the Hampton Roads region, which includes the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach along with Isle of Wright and Southampton counties.

The region accounted for nearly twice as many initial claims filed last week than any other of the 17 employment commission statistical regions. The surge in new unemployment in Hampton Roads corresponds with a significant uptick in newly reported cases of the novel coronavirus and in enforcement in that area of restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the virus.

The number of continued claims – filings that represent workers who have previously been laid off and successfully filed an initial claim for benefits - filed by Virginia residents has crept down consistently since its May 16 peak but remains at historically high levels, and most gains in the data have been offset by the recent rise in initial filings.

Last week, 344,826 state residents filed a continued claim, 16 times more than during the week ending March 14, before the pandemic began significantly to affect employment. The numbers from last week indicate only a 3.4% decline since the week ending July 18. That is, there is no sign that workers who were laid off previously are finding new employment in large numbers.

Overall, the combined total of initial and continued claims filed last week by Virginia residents represents 8.9% of the state’s labor force as measured in June by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only a 0.2% week-over-week improvement.

The employment numbers for residents of Fauquier County have been much better than Virginia and the United States as a whole, but county workers have nonetheless been laid off – and continued to be unemployed - at very high rates.

Last week, 1,938 county residents, representing 5.3% of the June labor force, filed either an initial or continued claim for unemployment benefits, essentially unchanged from the previous week.

The combined total includes 124 initial claims, indicating new layoffs are still occurring at rates far greater than before the pandemic; during the week ending March 14, for instance, just nine county residents filed an initial claim and 114 filed a continued claim.

Still, as weekly claims data along with local unemployment rates released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate, the employment situation in Fauquier County has consistently been much better than the rest of the state and the country throughout the pandemic.

The county’s unemployment rate for June – as measured by the BLS in the middle of that month – was 6.4%, compared to 8.4% for Virginia and 11.1% nationally. These numbers follow the same trend as the official rates for March, April and May; during each of those months, the employment situation in Fauquier County was better than in Virginia as a whole, and state numbers outperformed national numbers.

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