SALEM, Ore. — After a record-breaking week of unemployment claims in Oregon, the state Employment Department says that the week following handily shattered the one before.
OED announced on March 26 that it saw more than 76,500 initial unemployment claims filed during the week of March 15 as Governor Brown extended school closures, banned large public gathering, and mandated that restaurants eliminate dine-in — a massive surge over the week before during a more-or-less "business as usual" response to the new coronavirus.
Now the state says that the week after, when Governor Brown issued her statewide stay-at-home order, OED received even more claims. During the week of March 22, the agency received 92,700 initial claims, a 21 percent increase over the record-breaking week before.
"By comparison, the agency received 4,900 initial claim filings during the week starting March 8," OED said. "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."
Many southern Oregonians have reported being unable get through to file an unemployment claim over the past week or more, encountering jammed or unresponsive phone lines or difficulty getting through online.
OED says that it currently has detailed information on only 45,800 of the claims processed during the week of March 22. The vast majority of claims came from laid-off workers from restaurants or hotels, at least 15,500. Other claims came from workers in the health care and social assistance sector and retail trade.
The largest number of claims came from Multnomah, Washington, and Lane counties. The largest percentage increase in claims over the week came from Harney and Tillamook counties.
"Over the past two weeks the Employment Department doubled the number of staff dedicated to taking claims, and is in the process of tripling it," OED said. "The agency employees processing claims are doing so at a record rate. We also continue adding 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."
OED is encouraging anyone who can file a claim online to do so. The website includes a video with step-by-step instructions for filing a COVID-19 related claim.