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Initial unemployment claims declining

Initial unemployment claims in the Western Tidewater and South Hampton Roads regions continue to decline, according to data from the Virginia Employment Commission.

In Suffolk, those claims declined by 3.2 percent, from 314 for the week ending June 13 to 304 for the week ending June 20. Those claims also dropped in the same period for Franklin as well as Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

In Franklin, initial claims went from 51 to 47, in Isle of Wight from 73 to 68 and in Southampton from 26 to 20.

Statewide, the number of initial unemployment claims for the week ending June 20 was 25,293, a drop of 1,893 from the previous week.

“The data for (the) latest week continues to show clear signs of a recovery in Hampton Roads,” said Dominique Johnson, research associate for Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, in a news release. “The number of individuals receiving benefits declined for the fifth consecutive week, while initial claims have declined for 11 straight weeks.”

However, she cautioned that even as economic activity continues to rise throughout the region, “the road to initial claims returning to pre-pandemic levels remains long.”

Still, she said the state’s labor market continues to show strong signs of improvement.

The state commission says that the total of continued claims consists mainly of those who have filed recent claims for unemployment benefits. Of all those who have filed unemployment claims during the pandemic, 43 percent of them continue to receive benefits.

Across the U.S., 1.5 million Americans filed an unemployment claim for the week ending June 20, with another 728,120 claims filed through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which normally covers workers who are not eligible for state unemployment insurance benefits. In Virginia, 8,545 initial claims were filed through the program.

“This is an indication that the steady decline in initial claims over the last several weeks has somewhat stalled,” said Professor Vinod Agarwal of the Dragas Center, in a news release. “As the number of COVID-19 cases surges in several states and the country sets a new record in daily cases reported, we see how unpredictable the recovery will be.”

Agarwal noted that with the number of jobless claims still at historic highs, extending PUA benefits that are due to expire in a month is critical.

In Western Tidewater and South Hampton Roads, continued claims declined for all but Franklin, which went up by five people to 523 for the week ending June 20. In Suffolk, they went down by 75 people to 3,827. Isle of Wight County went down from 1,121 to 1,086 and Southampton County fell. from 358 to 353.

About 11,000 fewer people statewide received unemployment benefits for the week ending June 20 than they had the previous week.

Since March, unemployment rates have spiked, as they range from a low of 9.2 percent in Southampton to a high of 19.8 percent in Franklin, according to May projections by the Dragas Center using initial claims per month, the latest labor force data available and assuming that people who file claims are not leaving the labor force.

Initial claims – Suffolk

Week ending March 14: 26

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

Week ending May 9: 584

Week ending May 16: 489

Week ending May 23: 437

Week ending May 30: 352

Week ending June 6: 330

Week ending June 13: 314

Week ending June 20: 304

Total since March 14: 8,315

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

Week ending May 9: 155

Week ending May 16: 112

Week ending May 23: 100

Week ending May 30: 98

Week ending June 6: 93

Week ending June 13: 73

Week ending June 20: 68

Total since March 14: 2,634

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

Week ending May 9: 83

Week ending May 16: 75

Week ending May 23: 66

Week ending May 30: 56

Week ending June 6: 62

Week ending June 13: 51

Week ending June 20: 47

Total since March 14: 1,062

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

Week ending May 9: 49

Week ending May 16: 44

Week ending May 23: 33

Week ending May 30: 21

Week ending June 6: 25

Week ending June 13: 26

Week ending June. 20: 20

Total since March 14: 712

Initial claims for week ending June 20 (change from previous week):

Virginia Beach: 1,120 (-115)

Norfolk: 1,224 (+142)

Chesapeake: 728 (-42)

Portsmouth: 700 (+47)

Suffolk: 304 (-10)

Isle of Wight: 68 (-5)

Franklin: 47 (-4)

Southampton: 20 (-6)

Continued claims for week ending June 20 (change from previous week):

Virginia Beach: 19,974 (-902)

Norfolk: 13,731 (-270)

Chesapeake: 10,001 (-344)

Portsmouth: 5,692 (-49)

Suffolk: 3,827 (-75)

Isle of Wight: 1,086 (-35)

Franklin: 523 (+5)

Southampton: 353 (-5)

Source: Virginia Employment Commission