SALEM, Ore. — Over a period of just three weeks, initial unemployment claims have reached almost 270,000 in Oregon, according to the latest numbers from the Oregon Employment Department (OED). Yet numbers from across the nation demonstrate that it is one of the least affected states in the U.S.
By comparison, Oregon saw 147,800 net job losses over the period of the 'Great Recession' that began with 2008's housing crash, OED said.
During the week of March 29 alone, Oregon received 100,700 initial claims, breaking the records set by the preceding two weeks. OED says that it's still "rapidly adding" staff to take on the influx of new claims, and has been processing them at a "record pace." Still, there have been numerous reports from laid-off Oregonians unable to get through on jammed phone lines or running into other snags with their claims.
According to OED, the additional CARES Act unemployment payments of $600 will start going through Oregon's system "by the end of this week."
The state paid $28 million in benefits to Oregonians during the week of March 29, and officials expect that to rise dramatically as the CARES Act benefit starts to kick in.
OED also said that it is working to implement the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which would allow the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers to become eligible for benefits.
The agency is still asking anyone who can file a claim online to do so. Although OED has extended its phone hours on weekdays and added more staff, it says that wait times have averaged 106 minutes on claims phone lines.
Yes, it's bad . . . but it could be worse
According to an updated study by the financial site WalletHub, Oregon actually has had the second smallest overall increase in unemployment due to coronavirus in the U.S.
Though Oregon saw a 1167.82 percent increase in initial unemployment claims year over year, WalletHub found this to be the lowest state-level increase in the U.S.
Oregon had a 743.7 percent increase from the first week of the year to the week of March 30, and this was the fifth lowest increase in the nation.
WalletHub found that New York, one of the states hardest hit by coronavirus, saw a 670 percent increase in initial claims from the beginning of the year to the 14th week — far better than the national average of 2,193 percent.
The states hammered hardest by unemployment, according to WalletHub's report, were Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virgina, Georgia, and Mississippi.
“States should aggressively focus on helping the companies in the most need," said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. "The federal response will include sending checks to most citizens, even those whose income has not been affected by the coronavirus. States can use a more targeted approach to divert resources to the companies affected the most, thus having maximum impact for the money."