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Unemployment continues climb, initial claims declining

While new claims for unemployment insurance are declining, continued claims are still rising and they are still at historic highs across the Western Tidewater region, the state and the country.

In Suffolk, Franklin, along with Isle of Wight and Southampton counties, just 35 people filed initial unemployment claims the week ending March 14, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. From that week until the week ending May 2, 8,556 people had filed initial unemployment claims.

Though the number of people filing initial claims is at historic highs and sharply rose in the three weeks after Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and ordered shut non-essential businesses, they have declined across the region for three of the past four weeks. There was a slight rise in the week ending April 25, but once more declined for the week ending May 2.

Across Virginia, 59,631 workers filed initial claims for unemployment in the week ending May 2 – down 12,857 from the previous week – including 645 in Suffolk, 161 in Isle of Wight, 71 in Franklin and 59 in Southampton.

Continued claims statewide totaled 376,689 for the week ending May 2, up more than 10 percent from the previous week. In the Western Tidewater region, there are 5,200 continued claims, up 633 from the previous week, or nearly 13 percent. Suffolk has 3,351 continued claims for the week ending May 2, while Isle of Wight has 1,142, Franklin 392 and Southampton 315.

The VEC says that even though the 17.7 percent decline in initial claims shows that their volume have come down from their recent peak, “it may not return to pre-pandemic levels for some time.”

Preliminary numbers from the May 2 filing week show the top two areas for the filing of initial claims were in Northern Virginia – Fairfax County (7,029) and Prince William County (3,541) – followed by Virginia Beach (3,093), Loudoun County (2,399), Richmond (2,290), Chesterfield County (2,381), Henrico County (2,163), Norfolk (1,874) and Chesapeake (1,693).

Most areas across the state reported declining new claims compared to the previous week.

Nationwide, unemployment rose to a record high of 14.7 percent for the month of April, according to the Labor Department, up 10.3 percent from March. It is the highest rate since the Labor Department began tracking seasonally-adjusted data in 1948. The number of people unemployed rose to 23.1 million in April, up by 15.9 million from the previous month.

“The sharp increases in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,” according to the federal government’s employment situation summary released Friday.

It noted that employment took a dramatic drop in all major industries, including heavy losses in the leisure and hospitality industries.

Initial claims – Suffolk

Week ending March 14: 14

Week ending March 21: 348

Week ending March 28: 864

Week ending April 4: 1,273

Week ending April 11: 881

Week ending April 18: 718

Week ending April 25: 750

Week ending May 2: 645

Total since March 14: 5,505

Initial claims – Isle of Wight

Week ending March 14: 5

Week ending March 21: 127

Week ending March 28: 360

Week ending April 4: 472

Week ending April 11: 321

Week ending April 18: 243

Week ending April 25: 246

Week ending May 2: 161

Total since March 14: 1,935

Initial claims – Franklin

Week ending March 14: 3

Week ending March 21: 31

Week ending March 28: 103

Week ending April 4: 149

Week ending April 11: 101

Week ending April 18: 81

Week ending April 25: 83

Week ending May 2: 71

Total since March 14: 622

Initial claims – Southampton

Week ending March 14: 1

Week ending March 21: 23

Week ending March 28: 75

Week ending April 4: 117

Week ending April 11: 87

Week ending April 18: 56

Week ending April 25: 76

Week ending May 2: 59

Total since March 14: 494

Initial claims for week ending May 2 (change from previous week):

Virginia Beach: 3,093 (-1,001)

Norfolk: 1,874 (-356)

Chesapeake: 1,693 (-204)

Portsmouth: 812 (-130)

Suffolk: 645 (-105)

Isle of Wight: 161 (-85)

Franklin: 71 (-12)

Southampton: 59 (-17)

Continued claims for week ending May 2 (change from previous week):

Virginia Beach: 22,756 (+1,805)

Norfolk: 12,356 (+1,201)

Chesapeake: 9,816 (+1,074)

Portsmouth: 4,669 (+577)

Suffolk: 3,351 (+398)

Isle of Wight: 1,142 (+113)

Franklin: 392 (+65)

Southampton: 315 (+57)