augusta free press news

Virginia unemployment claims now nearing 18 percent of pre-lockdown workforce

Virginia covid-19
(© Ingo Menhard –

Another 44,699 initial unemployment claims were filed in Virginia over the past week, pushing the total number of initial claims to just under 18 percent of the pre-lockdown, nonfarm employment, according to figures released today.

The latest claims figure was a decrease of 7,440 claimants from the previous week, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

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 403,557, up 2.8% from the previous week and 385,380 higher than the 18,177 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 lockdown.

Thus far, continued claims during the May 16 filing equaled 56% of all initial claims filed during the pandemic. This percentage was a significant drop-off from the previous week.

According to preliminary figures from the May 16 filing week, the accommodation and food service sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, continued to see the greatest percentage of continued claims for unemployment benefits (92,688 of those reporting). This reflects impacts of public health and safety measures related to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Claimants in that industry comprised over a quarter of pre-pandemic payroll employment.

Many continued claims also came from workers in retail trade (14% of industry employment) and health care and social assistance (9% of industry employment) during the week of May 16. 28,543 claimants work in small service businesses like barbershops and automotive repair shops, which are classified in the other services industry.