Over 12,500 Northern Virginia residents filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, but another metric showed that many initial claimants are beginning to return to work.
The number of new claims in the region during the week ending May 16 was the lowest since the week ending March 21, the Virginia Employment Commission reported Thursday. That was the first week of business shutdowns in order to slow the spread of coronavirus.
First-time claims were also down about 14 percent from the preceding week and have been declining every week since the week ending April 4.
Over the nine weeks of shutdowns, a total of 212,223 Northern Virginia residents have filed initial unemployment claims with the VEC. However, the VEC reported that the number of residents who filed continuing claims last week was about 114,000, which means that about 85,000 of claimants prior to last week have gone back to work. That represents about 43% of prior claimants.
New and continuing unemployment claims by locality
|LOCALITY||Week ending May 16||Total Since 3/15||Continuing Claims|
Statewide, 44,699 first-time claims were filed last week, the lowest number since the pandemic began and 14.3% below the prior week. A total of 725,000 Virginians have filed first-time claims since March 15, compared with only 2,700 the week before the shutdowns began.
For the most recent filing week, continuing claims statewide were 403,557, up only 2.8% from the previous week. Continued claims during the May 16 filing equaled 56% of all initial claims filed during the pandemic, a significant drop from the previous week, the VEC said.
According to preliminary figures from the May 16 filing week, the accommodation and food service sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, continued to see the greatest percentage of continued claims for unemployment benefits (92,688 of those reporting). Claimants in that industry comprised over a quarter of pre-pandemic payroll employment.
Nationwide, the number of seasonally adjusted initial claims last week totaled 2.44 million, a decrease of 249,000 from the previous week's revised level. That brought the national total of claims to 38.6 million since the pandemic began.