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Initial unemployment claims continue downward trend

Initial unemployment claims have continued on a mostly downward trend across the Western Tidewater region since they peaked in early April.

As Virginia enters its second week in Phase II of its reopening plan after the coronavirus pandemic shut down or limited the operations of many businesses, the initial claims in the region’s localities for the week ending June 6 are on par with what they were March 21. That was when the first signs of the outbreak on the state’s unemployment figures showed.

In Suffolk, 330 people filed initial claims for June 6, down from 352 the previous week, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. The city has seen 7,697 initial claims filed since March 14. Suffolk has 3,938 people with continued claims for the filing week ending June 6, up 75 from the previous week.

Initial claims in Isle of Wight County also went down slightly, though they rose slightly in Franklin and Southampton County. Continued claims rose slightly in three of the region’s four localities, dropping by a small amount in Isle of Wight.

Most areas in Western Tidewater and South Hampton Roads saw either slight increases or decreases in initial claims.

Robert McNabb, director of ODU’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, said last week that the Hampton Roads region is starting to see the bottom of the first wave of layoffs.

Statewide, seasonally unadjusted unemployment claims in the state was 29,231 for the filing week ending June 6, down 2,148 from the previous week and the lowest since before the initial jump in unemployment insurance claims during the March 21 filing week.

Continuing claims were 396,056 statewide, down 2,355.

With continuing demand on VEC services, it has added more than 200 employees and is averaging more overtime hours each month during the coronavirus pandemic than during all of last year.

Fairfax and Prince William counties saw the most initial filings for the week ending June 6 with 2,770 and 1,418 claims, respectively.

By percentage of labor force, Franklin was third in the state, with 1.8 percent of its labor force filing an initial claim.

Virginia, through the end of April, was tied for 12th in lowest unemployment rate with 10.6 percent.