Va. new unemployment claims 60% lower than 1 year ago
Warner urges Northam to speed federal unemployment payments to claimants
The number of initial unemployment claims filed during the week ending March 20 were 60% lower than they were this week a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact first began to be reflected in Virginia’s unemployment statistics.
The Virginia Employment Commission reported Thursday that 17,560 people filed initial claims last week, an increase of 2,035 from the previous week. Continued claims totaled 58,233, a 2.9% decrease from the previous week but 36,605 higher than continued claims a year ago. People receiving unemployment benefits through the VEC must file weekly unemployment claims in order to continue receiving benefits.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner wrote a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday, urging him to speed up benefits to Virginia unemployment claimants now that the federal $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan has been passed. The act includes compensation for long-term unemployed people, self-employed and gig workers, as well as a new category that targets people with mixed sources of income.
“It is my understanding that, following earlier passage of congressional legislation to extend these programs in December, constituents in Virginia faced many delays and communication problems with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC),” Warner wrote. “With the knowledge that these benefit systems were originally set to expire on Dec. 26, I worked with a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to pass a relief package shortly before Christmas because it was understood that loss of benefits at this time of the year would be particularly cruel. Now, several months later, I hope you can agree that for constituents still experiencing delays the lack of pandemic unemployment insurance is unconscionable.”
Citing constituents that have called his office with complaints, Warner asked in the letter for the VEC to report on its plans on how to disburse the new federal funding for unemployed Virginians, as well as how the commission plans to improve communication efforts with claimants and employers.
“From Newport News to Henrico to Alexandria, constituents are contacting my office from every corner of the commonwealth with desperate requests for relief,” Warner wrote. “Some of them have waited three months, others have waited 11 months, and many are struggling to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads.”
More than half of the claimants who filed for benefits last week (and the prior four weeks) reported being in the accommodation/food service, administrative and waste services, retail trade and health care and social assistance industries, according to the VEC.
The regions of the state that have been most impacted continue to be Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads.
Below are the top 10 localities, listed by number of initial unemployment claims, for the week ending March 20:
- Alexandria, 1,478
- Norfolk, 1,169
- Richmond, 900
- Virginia Beach, 699
- Fairfax County, 689
- Prince William County, 466
- Hampton, 403
- Lynchburg, 383
- Chesterfield County, 337
- Petersburg, 332
Nationwide, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims last week was 684,000, a decrease of 97,000 from the previous week’s revised level, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. There were 2,920,162 initial claims during the same week last year.