During the week starting March 22, the Oregon Employment Department received 92,700 initial claims for Unemployment Insurance benefits. That represented a 21 percent increase from the previous record during the week starting March 15. By comparison, the agency received 4,900 initial claim filings during the week starting March 8. 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.
The Employment Department has detailed information for 45,800 of the claims processed during the week starting March 22. The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, saw the greatest number of initial claims for unemployment benefits (15,500). This reflects impacts of additional public health and safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many initial claims also came from workers in health care and social assistance (7,600) and retail trade (4,600).
Multnomah (10,900), Washington (5,300), and Lane (4,200) were the counties with the largest number of claims. The largest percentage increases in initial claims over the week occurred in Harney and Tillamook counties. More initial claims data by industry and area can be found on the QualityInfo.org COVID-19 page (also see tables on next page).
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. 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.
The Employment Department encourages anyone who can file an online claim to do so. The agency’s website includes a video with step-by-step instructions for filing online claims specific to COVID-19 situations. Filing an initial or weekly claim online helps those who must file their claim by phone. Calls to follow up on the status of successfully filed claims also allows fewer new initial claims, which require the most time and work, to be received by phone. The Employment Department has started sending automatic confirmations for successfully filed claims with an e-mail address provided. Other automatic fixes and guidance, discussed in this video conversation, have been implemented to address common online claim errors and reduce the need for follow-up.
To file an online claim for unemployment benefits, go to Oregon.gov/employ or call 1-877-FILE-4-UI. For help finding jobs and training resources, contact your local WorkSource Oregon center or go to WorkSourceOregon.org.
Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.