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Sept. 24, 2020

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Clark County’s initial jobless claims inch up

Applications for aid increase 4%; loss of electronics jobs cited

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:

For three weeks in a row, Clark County had a small increase in initial unemployment insurance claims, notably in electronics manufacturing.

The increases in the county tallied to 1,411, up 4 percent in the week ending July 4, compared with the week before. Statewide, initial claims were down 11 percent last week from the prior week.

Scott Bailey, regional economist for Southwest Washington, said that 142 of the county’s initial claims came from electronics-manufacturing businesses. The total number of jobs in that industry in May was 3,100. Most other industries had decreases in initial claims: Health care, construction and food services all dropped, he said.

Continued unemployment insurance claims fell by about 3 percent, or 429 claims; Bailey said that continued claims are more reflective of the county’s economic health. The biggest drop was in retail trade, which had 98 fewer claims. Health care declined by 76 claims, and construction by 57.

Since the end of May, there’s been a 32 percent drop in continued unemployment claims, Bailey said. Most industries have had double-digit declines.

“There’s been pretty good improvement there,” he said. “It’s still kind of a slog.”

Statewide last week there was about a 4 percent increase in continued claims.

The Washington Employment Security Department paid over $470 million to 404,475 individual claims last week. Compared to the week before, it was a decrease of $33.9 million and 5,177 fewer claims.

About 35,000 people in the state are still waiting for resolution on their unemployment claims, according to Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the Employment Security Department. She said the department plans to have them resolved by the end of the month.

To help with the backlog of claims and the screening process to prevent fraud, about 200 new staff members are joining the department soon, and 80 interns will come on board, too. They will replace some of the temporary workers in the department.

LeVine said that the staff is doing various things to get people through the adjudication process and open up phone lines. They include automating the process to get people from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to the extended program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

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