Thursday, May 6, 2021
May 6, 2021

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Jobless claims in Clark County take ‘two steps forward, one step back’

First-time filings for unemployment insurance rise, but continued claims decline

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

Although initial unemployment insurance claims rose by 10 percent last week in Clark County, the number of continued claims dropped by 7 percent. Roughly 121 new people applied for unemployment in Clark County last week, and 1,100 people returned to work after a spell with unemployment insurance.

“There’s still some underlying ‘two steps forward, one step back,’ in the picture,” said Scott Bailey, the state’s regional economist for Southwest Washington.

There were 42 initial claims in manufacturing, 28 in retail, and 26 in transportation.

Hospitality, one of the industries hardest-hit by the pandemic, had two fewer initial claims filed than in the previous week.

Among the continued claims, there were 263 fewer claims in accommodation and food services; other services, including hairdressers, dropped by 240 claims; retail trade dropped by 188 claims, and health care dropped by 134 claims.

“That’s the bulk of the decline in those four industries,” Bailey said. “That all sounds like reopening to me.”

The whole state and most counties saw an increase in initial claims. Washington had a 2 percent increase as a whole.

Meanwhile, some claimants are awaiting benefits. The Washington Employment Security Department is still chipping away at a backlog of 71,679 people who are stuck in adjudication, Commissioner Suzi LeVine said Thursday. That’s down about 10,000 from the week before.

LeVine said the state’s target is to resolve all claims no later than July 31 and have the average wait time for adjudication reduced to four weeks during the pandemic. It’s currently about six weeks and two days. Before the pandemic, the average was around three weeks.

The ESD has shifted its phone call policy to scale back on answering calls and instead focusing on outgoing calls. The idea is to tackle the longest-running cases stuck in adjudication, according to LeVine.

The state has paid out more than $6.5 billion in benefits to Washingtonians so far. In a massive insurance fraud traced to scammers based in Nigeria, the ESD estimates roughly $650 million was stolen. Approximately $300 million was recovered from the scammers.