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News / Business / Clark County Business

Clark County food service jobs take big hit

They account for most new jobless claims as virus rules tighten

By Will Campbell, Columbian Associate Editor
Published: December 3, 2020, 7:25pm

The latest round of outdoor-dining-only restaurant restrictions led to sweeping service industry layoffs in the past two weeks, accounting for nearly all of Clark County’s jobless claim increases.

Shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee announced new statewide restrictions Nov. 15 to curb the spread of COVID-19, initial unemployment claims jumped from 714 to 1,575 in Clark County. In parallel, food service workers’ initial claims spiked from 93 two weeks ago to 495 last week.

Those who lost their jobs at restaurants and bars accounted for a spike in continued claims last week: Regular continued claims increased by 351, a 6 percent jump. Food services jobs accounted for 347 of those continued claims from last week.

“It’s what we were afraid of,” said Scott Bailey, regional economist for Southwest Washington. “With big infection rates, the high hospital rate — that was going to impact the economy. It’s certainly affecting food services.”

Bailey said an underlying seasonal trend of job loss was going to affect restaurants anyway because of limited indoor seating during the colder months, without the newest restrictions.

“We’re still waiting to see if and when Congress will act to provide more aid because winter is coming,” Bailey said.

Initial regular unemployment claims decreased last week from 1,575 to 1,074.

Last week’s jobless claim increases were concentrated to younger workers — with a fairly even split between males and females, but it tilted toward workers of color. Claims in total were up 6 percent, but non-Latino, white worker claims were up 4.7 percent.

Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation claims saw little change last week, only increasing by three claims. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims increased by nearly 5 percent, from 4,684 to 4,914, with no specific industry associated. The peak of the weekly Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims was at the end of May, at 8,053.

The state as a whole saw initial regular unemployment claims decrease by 26.2 percent from the prior week, and all unemployment benefit categories were down 1.1 percent from the prior week, according to the Employment Security Department.

Continued claims jumped from 421,827 to 426,963 in the state, according to the Employment Security Department.