New week, new record for Oregon jobless claims

Nearly 93,000 Oregonians fired for unemployment benefits last week, a 21% jump from the previous record set just a week earlier.

For comparison, the Oregon Employment Department reported it received just shy of 5,000 claims for the week starting March 8th.

In March, statewide, 180,600 Oregonians filed unemployment benefits.

For a historical comparison, jobless claims in Oregon during the heart of the 2007-2009 recession peaked around 21,000.

The Employment Department has detailed information for 45,800 of the claims processed during the week starting March 22.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, saw the greatest number of initial claims for unemployment benefits (15,500). This reflects impacts of additional public health and safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many initial claims also came from workers in health care and social assistance (7,600) and retail trade (4,600).

Multnomah (10,900), Washington (5,300), and Lane (4,200) were the counties with the largest number of claims. The largest percentage increases in initial claims over the week occurred in Harney and Tillamook counties. More initial claims data by industry and area can be found on the COVID-19 page (also see tables on next page).

The Employment Department continues to take proactive steps to meet the unprecedented need for unemployment benefits, which is largely due to reduced hours and layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past two weeks the agency doubled the number of staff dedicated to taking claims, and is in the process of tripling it.

The agency employees processing claims are doing so at a record rate and continue to add secure phone lines to take more calls while also protecting the personal information of those filing claims.

Still, the truly unprecedented and sudden level of initial claims has caused delays and frustration for Oregonians who need our help, especially by phone.

The Employment Department encourages anyone who can file an online claim to do so.

The agency’s website includes a video with step-by-step instructions for filing online claims specific to COVID-19 situations. Filing an initial or weekly claim online helps those who must file their claim by phone.

Calls to follow up on the status of successfully filed claims also allows fewer new initial claims, which require the most time and work, to be received by phone. The Employment Department has started sending automatic confirmations for successfully filed claims with an e-mail address provided. Other automatic fixes and guidance, discussed in this video conversation, have been implemented to address common online claim errors and reduce the need for follow-up.


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