PORTLAND, Ore. — Unemployment claims in Oregon skyrocketed to more than 76,500 over the week of March 15, according to the Oregon Employment Department (OED) — more than 15 times the week immediately prior.
Over the first three days of this week, initial claims continued to track at record levels, the agency said.
"This comes as a sharp increase from 4,900 initial claims filed during the week of March 8," officials said in a statement. "The Employment Department is taking several measures to meet the unprecedented need for unemployment benefits, which is largely due to reduced hours and layoffs related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic."
The majority of processed claims in Oregon have come from the leisure and hospitality sector as restaurants and hotels close or scale back their operations. Others came from health care and retail.
Last week saw the highest number of initial jobless claims in the U.S. since the federal government began tracking that data in 1967 — about 3.28 million across the nation.
Ironically, OED has had to hire new employees over the past two weeks to deal with the overwhelming number of claims, as well as shifting workers to different program areas. The agency has also doubled the number of workers processing unemployment claims.
"Still, record levels of unemployment claims cause longer wait times, as the department works to gather and process the details factoring into each individual claimant’s eligibility and weekly benefit amount," the agency said. "We encourage Oregonians who have lost their jobs to file claims using our online system to lower wait times by phone."
A new video from the Employment Department shows step-by-step details for filing an online claim.
"The department also continues to offer job seeker and employer services, including more phone and virtual options for appropriate social distancing," OED said. "We are present to help Oregonians who have experienced tremendous disruptions, while also doing our part to follow health and safety guidelines for our communities."
The Employment Department has also added a COVID-19 web page to serve as a resource guide. It includes an overview of the Unemployment Insurance program, along with questions and answers about specific COVID-19 coronavirus-related situations and unemployment benefits.