New Unemployment Claims Continue To Soar

Employers Adding Jobs In May Pushes Unemployment Rate Down To 3.8 Percent

Photo: Getty Images

During the week of April 19 to April 25, the Oregon Employment Department received 28,500 initial claims for unemployment benefits. Since public health and safety measures began the week starting March 15, Oregon has received more than 362,200 initial claims for unemployment insurance.

The Employment Department has processed three out of every four initial claims received between March 15 and April 25, and continues expanding its processing ability.

The agency now has 610 employees dedicated to processing unemployment claims. A new contact center is expected to open in May. Current contact centers have expanded call hours from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, are giving call-backs to those with unprocessed claims, and employees continue processing claims seven days per week.

After starting up the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (“the $600”) and the newly created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed, contract, and gig workers, the Employment Department is now working towards implementing the third piece of the CARES Act. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program extends benefits for up to 13 weeks for those who have run out of benefits and remain out of work due to COVID-19 closures.

For each of the past three weeks, more initial claims have been processed than received. The Employment Department has detailed information for 29,700 of the 46,700 claims processed during the week of April 19 to April 25.

The greatest number of initial claims continued to come from the accommodation and food services sector (5,100). Since March 15th, there have been about 59,600 initial claims filed in this industry. Other sectors with the largest initial claims totals over the past six weeks include health care and social assistance (35,300) and retail trade (28,700). Every sector of the economy has seen increased claims activity though. Initial claims totaled 22,500 in manufacturing and 16,000 in construction since March 15th.

Multnomah (6,200), Washington (3,600), and Clackamas (3,000) counties had the largest number of claims during the week of April 19 to April 25. More initial claims data by industry and area can be found on the COVID-19 page.


During the week of April 19-25, there were 1,455,908 total claims for unemployment benefits filed by Washingtonians for unemployment benefits, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).

Here's the breakdown of claims:

  • 137,605 claims for regular unemployment benefits
  • 190,948 claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance claims
  • 168,165 claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
  • 959,190 Previous claims that are continued

Initial claims for regular unemployment benefits increased by 67 percent, and total initial claims increased by 453.3 percent over the previous week. While this is an increase of almost 10,000 percent over the same week last year, an average of 1.5 initial claims were filed per person for UI, PUA and PEUC. This was the first week that initial PUA claims could be filed by individuals such as self-employed workers and independent contractors, and initial PUEC claims for extended benefits were able to be filed.

In addition, during the week of April 19-25, ESD paid out over $988 million (an increase of $811.2 million from the previous week) to a total of 504,407 claims (an increase of 151,498 from the previous week). An individual can file more than one claim, so the number of claims does not equate to individuals – that number is below.

Since the week ending March 7 when COVID-19 job losses began:

• A total of 787,533 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment insurance

• ESD has paid out nearly $1.5 billion in benefits to Washingtonians

• 504,284 individuals who have filed an initial claim since the pandemic began have been paid

“The tsunami of claims we have been preparing for is reflected in this week’s data, as it shows the hundreds of thousands of workers applying for expanded benefits under the federal CARES Act since we updated our system to accept those applications on April 18,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “This is, by far, the largest week of unemployment benefits delivered in our state's history. We are humbled and grateful to be able to get those benefits to so many Washingtonians during this crisis, but our work is far from over. We know that people are struggling all across the state, and many are in desperate situations. We have received more initial claims in the past seven weeks than the previous three and a half years combined – it is a truly staggering amount of people affected by this crisis. I am so sorry that we haven’t been able to provide everyone with relief when they need it and we are working night and day to make sure that we do. We want to remind people; the money won’t run out and you won’t miss out. You will be paid all the benefits for which you are eligible.”

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