photo_ft_news_VEC unemployment map Aug 22

The total number of weekly claims for unemployment insurance benefits in Virginia have fallen by 33% during the past four weeks, according to the latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission for the filing week ending Aug. 22. Still, more than 10 times the number of state residents received benefits last week than in mid-March, before unemployment skyrocketed amid the pandemic.

While the number of new layoffs, represented by initial unemployment claims, are down 92% since its April 4 peak and stood at 11,436 last week, about five times the number of state workers were laid off during the latest filing period compared to the week ending March 14.

As has been the case since late April, however, the vast majority of claims - 249,745 - last week were continued filings, representing workers who were laid off during a previous week and remain unemployed. The most recent number of continued claims stood at more than 11 times its pre-pandemic level.

Still, the total number of weekly claims among Virginia workers has trended consistently downward recently, with the exception of only one filing period.

The combined number of initial and continued claims represented 10.2% of the state’s labor force – as measured in March – during the week ending May 16. By July 4, that percentage had fallen slightly, to 9.2%. Last week, however, claims represented only 5.9% of the state’s workers.

(Labor force data is measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, last week Fauquier County’s employment situation was much less severe than in the state. During the filing period ending Aug. 22, 1,297 Fauquier residents filed either an initial or continued claim, representing 3.3% of the county’s labor force. This percentage peaked in April at 7.4%.

As in Virginia as a whole, however, unemployment remains very elevated in Fauquier County compared with before the pandemic; claims during the week ending March 14 represented just 0.3% of the county’s workers.

Virginia residents employed in the food service, accommodation, retail and health care industries were laid off in especially high numbers in March and April, and many of those workers remain unemployed.

Workers in food service and accommodation industries have been the most affected. During one week in mid-May, 93,204 Virginia workers employed by these categories of business filed a continued claim for unemployment benefits. That number has improved since then, but nevertheless, the 51,511 of these workers who filed a continued claim last week represents 40 times more claims than before the pandemic.

Individuals previously employed in either retail or health care also remained unemployed at disproportionate rates. Workers in each category filed 17 more continued claims last week than before the pandemic.

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