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News / Business / Clark County Business

Clark County’s new jobless claims spike after weeks of decreases

By Will Campbell, Columbian Associate Editor
Published: April 30, 2020, 1:12pm

Initial unemployment insurance claims in Clark County spiked 70 percent last week after a steady decrease in the rate for the prior three weeks.

A regional labor economist said a vast majority of those claims came from Clark County residents working out of state.

According to the Washington Employment Security Department, 6,292 Clark County residents filed an initial claim for unemployment insurance last week. About 300 of the claims were from residents who filed multiple initial claims.

Scott Bailey, the regional economist for Southwest Washington, said about 2,000 of those claims are from Clark County residents who were working in Oregon.

Bailey said that he didn’t want to speculate on why out-of-state worker claims jumped last week.

“We may see ups and downs like this as we get caught up,” Bailey said. “Even though it went up, it was still less than in previous weeks. It’s still a very high number.”

Media reports have detailed serious shortcomings with the Oregon Employment Department’s computer systems and delayed claims processing since the pandemic began to affect employment in the Pacific Northwest.

Washington as a whole also saw a spike in initial unemployment claims last week, an increase of 67 percent.

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said Thursday that part of the increase is from workers filing multiple initial claims for multiple programs.

One in five workers in Washington state have filed for unemployment since March 7, according to the updated data released Thursday. The state has not calculated the unemployment rate, and that should be available in April’s numbers, which the state will release on May 26.

The state has paid out roughly $1.5 billion in benefits to the 504,284 Washingtonians who filed an initial claim during the COVID-19 crisis. Roughly half a billion dollars has come out of state trust funds, and a billion dollars from the federal government, LeVine said Thursday.

More than 80,000 people in Washington are caught in the adjudication process for getting their initial unemployment claim filed. The state is bogged down with calls trying to clear up any issues with residents’ applications for unemployment insurance, she said.