Monday, September 21, 2020
Sept. 21, 2020

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Initial jobless claims in Clark County fall by 16%

County’s figures are lowest they’ve been in four months

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

Clark County’s initial unemployment claims fell by 16 percent last week from 1,362 to 1,147, signaling a minor recovery in the local economy but still a worrisome picture overall.

Scott Bailey, the state’s regional labor economist for Southwest Washington, said initial unemployment claims fell to the lowest they’ve been in four months. So did PUEC and PUA unemployment claims, both of which are related to the pandemic.

Continued unemployment insurance claims in Clark County decreased by 3.3 percent from 13,187 to 12,825. A month ago, continued claims sat at 14,500.

“New unemployment is being generated at a lower and lower level,” Bailey said. “We’ve had 10 weeks of steady decline. Overall, last week, things got better.”

Clark County’s initial and continued claims last week were trending roughly along with other counties in Washington and the state as a whole, Bailey said; Washington had a 13.4 percent decrease in initial claims from the prior week, and continued claims dropped by about 2.37 percent.

The Washington Employment Security Department paid more than $575.5 million last week to 444,580 individual claimants, which was an increase of $2.2 million, and the money was given to 2,394 more individuals compared with the prior week, according to an ESD news release.

“As we turn the page on Operation 100%, more than 81,500 individuals who had applied by mid-June and not received payment now have resolution on their claims,” Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine said in the news release. “You can see this reflected in this week’s data, as claims went down but dollars out went up.”

While there’s an improvement in the local economy, the pandemic is still a worrying force, Bailey said.

“The grand picture remains worrisome,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what Congress will do. In the meantime, a bunch of people are out $600,” he said, referring to the CARES Act that expired last month.

“We already have households over the edge, and this will push more over,” he said. “Is Congress going to get more aid for small biz and more aid that makes better sense? Will people get more aid for unemployment, and for state and local governments?”

Federal unemployment statistics for July will be released Friday, and Bailey said there’s been some chatter about U.S. employment going down. But in Washington, July’s weekly numbers don’t seem to indicate that, Bailey said.

“The numbers I’m seeing statewide would tend to indicate employment increases in July,” he said. “We may be different from other states.”