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Initial unemployment claims in region up in December

Seasonally-adjusted initial unemployment claims in Western Tidewater and South Hampton Roads have gone up in December, but are still well lower than such claims at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic this summer.

Statewide, 14,640 people filed initial claims in the state for the week ending Dec. 19, down 541 claims from the previous week. Continued weeks claimed totaled 67,478, a 0.8% drop from the previous week but 48,041 higher than the 19,437 continued claims from the comparable week last year.

Continued claims totals mainly include people who filed recent initial claims who continued to file for unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virginia Employment Commission said the drop in continued claims “indicated a resumption of its declining trend and was over 80% lower than its May 16 filing week peak.”

The state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 4.9% in November, down 0.3% from October as it saw job gains in professional and business services, education and health services, construction, trade and transportation and mining.

Fairfax County had the most initial claims filed for the week ending Dec. 19 with 1,000, while South Hampton Roads localities Virginia Beach and Norfolk followed with 850 and 728 initial claims respectively. Most localities in Virginia — 79 of 133 — had a decrease or no change in initial claims.

From October to November, there was job growth in the state in professional and business services, construction, leisure and hospitality, trade and transportation and mining — up 13,600 jobs combined, while the largest job loss occurred in government, dropping by 5,700 jobs (1,600 in federal government jobs and another 4,700 in local government jobs).

However, over the past year, the state lost 179,000 jobs from November 2019 to November 2020 — 140,800 of those jobs in the private sector and 38,200 jobs in the public sector. Of major industry divisions, 10 of 11 had employment drops, with only construction enjoying job gains — up 12,200 jobs. Leisure and hospitality jobs dropped 16.1%, while government jobs declined by 5.2%. Education and health service jobs dropped by 5.8%.

In Suffolk, 141 people filed initial claims for the week ending Dec. 19, down from 121 the previous week and down 619 from a summer peak during the week ending July 25. Since the week ending March 14, 13,707 people in the city have filed an initial claim for unemployment, representing nearly 15% of its population estimate (from the most recent Census data from July 1, 2019) of 92,108. City residents filed 836 continued claims, up 27 from the previous week.

In Isle of Wight County, there were 12 initial claims for the week ending Dec. 19, down six from the previous week and 223 continued claims filed, up four from the previous week.

In Franklin, 21 people filed initial claims for the week ending Dec. 19, up six from the previous week. Continued claims dropped by eight to 132.

Initial claims in Southampton County totaled 58 for the week ending Dec. 19, up from 27 the previous week, with 75 people filing continued claims, down three from the previous week.