Initial claims for unemployment benefits from Northern Virginia residents declined 21 percent last week to the lowest level since the first week of pandemic-related business shutdowns.
The Virginia Employment Commission reported Thursday that 16,960 claims were filed from the region in the week ending May 2. That was down from 21,352 the week before and the fewest since the week ending March 21, when about 11,000 claims were filed.
However, last week's filings brought the total number of new claims from Northern Virginia to 185,161 in the seven weeks since the pandemic began and businesses began closing. In comparison, only 404 first-time claims were filed from the region for the week ending March 14.
Gov. Ralph Northam ordered non-essential businesses to close on March 24. He announced Monday that he expects to begin lifting those restrictions May 15.
Among Northern Virginia localities, Fairfax County continued to have the highest number of claims for unemployment benefits, with just over 7,000 last week and 79,604 since the pandemic began. Prince William County has been tracking at about half that level, followed by Loudoun County, Arlington County and Alexandria.
Initial Unemployment Claims by Locality
Statewide, 59,361 residents filed first-time claims for benefits last week, down 17.7% from the week before and also the lowest number since the first week of the crisis.
Continued weeks claimed, or initial claimants who remain unemployed, totaled 376,689 last week, up over 10% from the previous week and 358,211 higher than the 18,478 continued claims from the comparable week last year, the VEC reported. That total is more than 10% of March private sector payroll employment in the Commonwealth.
Nationwide, the number of seasonally adjusted initial claims last week totaled 3.17 million a decrease of 677,000 from the previous week's level. In all, about 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began.