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Another big number highlights this week’s Virginia unemployment report

covid-19 economy
(© Alexander Borisenko –

The total number of initial unemployment claims for the first 10 weeks of Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 lockdown are now more than 100,000 higher than the total filed during the Great Recession.

Let that one sink in.

The Great Recession was December 2007 to June 2009. Nineteen months.

The Virginia Employment Commission reports today that for the filing week ending May 23, the figure for seasonally unadjusted initial claims in Virginia was 39,242, a decrease (yay!) of 5,457 claimants from the previous week.

The weekly total was the lowest since before the initial spike in unemployment insurance claims during the March 21 filing week.

For the most recent filing week, continued weeks claimed totaled 402,926, down 631 from the previous week, but 384,563 higher than the 18,363 continued claims from the comparable week last year. The continued claims total is mainly comprised of those recent initial claimants who continued to file for unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continued claims during the May 23 filing week equaled 53 percent of all initial claims filed during the pandemic to this point. This percentage has trended downward in recent weeks.

Pandemic Unemployment claims accounted for 12,705 of the initial claims this week and 193,684 of the 402,926 continued claims were Pandemic Unemployment continued claims.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a provision within the CARES Act, is a program that provides unemployment insurance benefits to those who are not covered by the regular/traditional Virginia state UI program. It provides payment to workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, workers with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency.

Nationwide, for the week ending May 23, 32 states reported 1,192,616 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Nationwide, the number of seasonally adjusted initial claims totaled 2,123,000, a decrease of 323,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 8,000 from 2,438,000 to 2,446,000. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 1,914,958 in the week ending May 23, a decrease of 266,682 (or -12.2 percent) from the previous week.

Most states reported less than 100,000 claims during the most recent filing week, except for the largest five in terms of numbers of filings.

Looking at advance-issue, seasonally unadjusted numbers, the top five largest numbers of initial claims for the week ending May 23 were in California, New York, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

Story by Chris Graham

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