Nearly 300,000 filed for unemployment benefits in last month

Nearly 300,000 Oregonians have filed for unemployment benefits over the last month, according to new numbers from the state.

The Oregon Department of Employment reported 53,800 new initial claims were filed between April 5th-11th. That’s in addition to the revised 243,000 claims filed during the prior three weeks.

For a historical comparison, net job losses in Oregon totaled 147,800 during the recession of 2008.

The Oregon Employment Department continues to prioritize efforts that can get the most benefits to the greatest number of affected Oregonians the fastest.

With the first CARES Act payments on April 10, Oregon is among the early states getting an extra $600 per week to those out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the week of March 29 to April 4, the Employment Department paid $23 million in benefits to Oregonians. During the week of April 5 to April 11, that more than quadrupled to $97 million in benefits paid.

More benefits measures are on the agency’s COVID-19 page.

The Employment Department’s efforts continue with more hiring underway, and programming the unemployment benefits system for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Once ready, the PUA program will allow the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers not already eligible to receive unemployment benefits for the first time.

The responsiveness of existing agency employees transitioning from other program areas to take claims, efforts to rapidly hire new staff, and launching new programs has resulted in getting much-needed benefits to more Oregonians in difficult times.

These results come despite the agency’s reliance on a dated mainframe system to process unemployment benefits.

The Employment Department will continue to examine opportunities to improve services to Oregonians, such as waiving the “waiting week” for benefits. As of now, waiving the waiting week requires thousands of hours of programming, and would delay processing record numbers of claims that are getting benefits to Oregonians who need them now.

The Employment Department has detailed information for 47,700 of the initial claims processed during the week starting April 5.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, continued to see the greatest number of initial claims for unemployment benefits (12,300).

This reflects ongoing impacts of public health and safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 15, there have been about 52,900 initial claims filed in the leisure and hospitality sector. Health care and social assistance (25,800) and retail trade (19,700) are other sectors with large totals of initial weekly claims in the past four weeks, but every sector has seen additional claims activity.

Multnomah (10,200), Washington (6,000), and Lane (4,600) also continued to be the counties with the largest number of claims. More initial claims data by industry and area can be found on the QualityInfo.org COVID-19 page.

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