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Unemployment continues to rise in city

The number of people filing for unemployment in Suffolk continues to rise as the coronavirus pandemic has put a suffocating, but likely temporary, hold on the job market.

In the week ending March 14, just 14 people in the city had filed initial claims for unemployment. Since then, 2,485 residents have filed initial unemployment claims, with more than half of those — 1,273 — coming for the week ending April 4.

“The change in economic conditions is historic and stunning in its speed,” said Robert McNab, director of Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis. “In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate in Hampton Roads reached 7.8 percent in February 2010, two years after the financial crisis. Three weeks have almost erased all the gains in employment over the last decade.”

Across Hampton Roads, 29,961 people filed initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending April 4, up 5,904 from the previous week. The Dragas Center estimates the current unemployment rate across Hampton Roads at 10.6 percent, up from 3 percent in February, as 64,963 people across the region have file an initial unemployment claim.

Initial claims increased in all but one of Hampton Roads’ cities and counties. Williamsburg was the lone exception.

It projects that layoffs will continue to increase as social distancing measures continue and the impact spreads to other industries not initially affected.

Layoffs in manufacturing, transportation and health care were the leading causes for the most recent initial claims, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The Dragas Center is forecasting a challenging time for the region over the next several weeks with what it noted has been significant declines in hotel occupancy and projections of declining international trade volumes. It said, however, that many layoffs have been characterized as temporary, and it expects hiring to begin again once social distancing measures are no longer needed to control the spread of COVID-19.

Suffolk’s Economic Development office has posted on its website a resource for city residents and businesses on its webpage, yessuffolk.com, including a business workforce hiring list.

Initial claims – Suffolk

Week ending March 14: 14

Week ending March 21: 348

Week ending March 28: 864

Week ending April 4: 1,273