Like most communities in the U.S., the Richmond Region has seen a spike in initial and continued unemployment claims due to COVID-19 and subsequent layoffs.
Since mid-March, the Greater Richmond Partnership Research department staff has been following and analyzing these claims, which are now published weekly by the Virginia Employment Commission and at the national level by the Department of Labor, since stay-at-home orders took effect for Virginia.
Most communities experienced an initial spike the week ending in March 21st, which was the first week most of the U.S. implemented stay-at-home orders. Initial claims continued to climb for the next three weeks until peaking the week ending in April 4th.
To better compare numbers, weekly claims were standardized by the size of the respective workforce at each geography level using data published February 2020, before most stay-at-home orders took effect.
The U.S. as a whole experienced a peak of 378 initial claims per 10,000 workforce members during the week ending in April 4th. However, Virginia and the Richmond Region saw fewer claims that week at about 212 per 10,000 workers.
Since its peak in the beginning of April, initial claims have slowly declined and in the last few weeks have started to plateau in the U.S., Virginia, and the Richmond Region. Claims remain higher than the previous rate of about 5 per 10,000 workers in a week, as seen in the beginning of March, versus about 15 per 10,000 in the U.S.
Overall, since the week ending in March 21st, the U.S. has seen nearly 42 million initial unemployment claims to date out of a workforce of 164 million.
Continued unemployment claims saw a delayed spike compared to initial claims because they represent workers receiving unemployment insurance paid over time. Virginia and the Richmond Region saw an increase in claims until the week ending in May 16th when claims plateaued around 900 per 10,000 workers.
The U.S. also experienced an increase in continued claims through April 18th but then saw weekly claim numbers fluctuate before plateauing the week ending March 16th. This is likely due to varying re-opening plans and variation in economic impacts in different states.
Virginia may see continued claims decrease as businesses begin to re-open per state orders. However, many office-based businesses have yet to re-open or bring workers back into the office. As such, it may take many more weeks or months for claims to decrease back to pre-COVID levels.