photo_ft_news_unemployment map Virginia initial claims July 11

Fewer Fauquier County residents filed for unemployment insurance benefits last week than in any week since early April, but the number of county residents receiving benefits is still more than 16 times higher than before pandemic-related layoffs began.

According to data released Thursday by the Virginia Employment Commission, a total of 2,031 Fauquier County residents filed either an initial or continued claim for unemployment benefits during the week that ended July 11.

That number is down 4.4% compared to the previous week and down 27% since the number peaked during the first week of May. Just 123 county residents filed an unemployment claim during the week ending March 14, the last week before mass layoffs began in the state.

The number of initial claims – representing new layoffs – has fallen by 91% in Fauquier County since initial claims peaked in early April, but the number of continued claims ballooned until early May and has only gradually decreased since then.

The vast majority – 96% most recently - of unemployment filings now come from continued claims, representing individuals who have previously been laid off, were approved for initial claims for benefits and remain unemployed.

The employment recovery for Virginia as a whole has stalled almost completely since mid-June. Continued claims were down slightly during the most recent week, but the number of initial claims is essentially flat.

In total, 404,626 Virginia residents filed either an initial or continued claim for unemployment benefits during the week ending July 11, representing 9.4% of the state’s total May labor force. In contrast, unemployment filings in Fauquier County last week accounted for 5.6% of its labor force.

The state data has been driven by rising numbers of initial claims in the Hampton Roads Labor Workforce Development Area, one of 17 economic regions in Virginia as defined by the VEC. The region has experienced a surge in new coronavirus cases recently.

Initial claims in the Hampton Roads area, which includes the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach along with Isle of Wright and Southampton counties, have risen significantly in recent weeks, accounting for 26% of all initial claims filed by Virginia residents last week, the most of any one region.

In the most recent week, 7,055 initial claims were filed in the region. New claims peaked during the week ending April 4, when 20,180 initial claims were approved, and dropped as low as 4,180 during the week ending June 6.

In most other regions of Virginia, the level of initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits has been flat or has slowly declined in recent weeks, an indication that in most areas new layoffs have slowed but still remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The decrease in the number of new layoffs has been most dramatic in the Northern Virginia region, which encompasses Prince William, Loudoun and Fairfax counties and the cities contained therein.

During the week ending April 4 that region reported 38,656 initial claims, almost twice any other region in the state. Since mid-June, that number has leveled off to roughly 4,500 per week.

The number of new layoffs for workers in the Piedmont Workforce Network, of which Fauquier County is a part, appear to be holding steady but not quickly declining. After peaking at 6,288 during the week ending April 4, 692 initial claims were filed in the Piedmont region last week, almost unchanged from the week previous.

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