The state has unveiled a new interactive data tool to examine the depth of COVID-19’s impact on our struggling economy, which has pushed Washingtonians to file unemployment claims at historically high levels for months, the state Department of Commerce announced Monday.
The tool — an economic recovery dashboard developed with federal funding from the CARES Act — will visualize data from public and private organizations, and track the state’s recovery efforts across different industries and demographics, according to a statement from the Department of Commerce. The data will be updated monthly.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 on individuals, families and businesses is like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” Lisa Brown, Department of Commerce director, said in the statement. “The depth and complexity of the challenge we’re dealing with demands that we use data in new ways to help every family, every community and every industry get back on their feet, stronger and more resilient than before.”
While the dashboard contains some “traditional economic data,” such as employment, business income and investment activity in the state, it also looks at how people are experiencing the economic downturn, such as the number of Washingtonians accessing food assistance, Brown said during a news conference Monday morning.
“We anticipate, based on economic recessions that have happened similar to this in the United States and other countries, that we’re potentially looking at a couple of years, or maybe as much as three or four years, for economic activity to resume at pre-COVID levels,” she said during the news conference.
She added that she’s hoping the tool could help guide state and local leaders as they work toward full economic recovery.
As of Sept. 9, Washington’s unemployment rate was at 10.2%, according to the dashboard. The state’s employment decline is about 30% greater than the lowest point of the Great Recession, the statement said.
The state is also reporting that the leisure and hospitality industries have been the hardest hit, and have recovered only about 30% of pandemic-related job losses — while, as of June, the construction industry had recovered about 80% of jobs.
There have also been “early signs” of unemployment hitting some racial groups harder than others, particularly Pacific Islander and Black workers. As of Aug. 23, 16% of Pacific Islander workers had filed continued unemployment claims, and 10.2% of Black workers had filed continued claims. Meanwhile, about 6 to 7% of Asian, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino and white workers had filed similar continued claims.
The dashboard is also showing an additional 100,000 people have signed up for food or temporary cash assistance since February, with larger increases in Central Washington, Spokane and the Tri-Cities.
“The length and depth of the pandemic has resulted in a global slow down that has affected businesses, communities and geographic regions of our state in unique ways. … We can’t have an equitable recovery without in-depth data,” Brown said in the statement. “Approaches to recovery must be as diverse as our economy itself.”