Unemployment hits record highs locally and nationally

RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — Unemployment in Virginia and across the country continues to rise as more and more people are being laid off or having their hours cut back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo courtesy MGN.

Just a few months after seeing unemployment rates across the country at a 50-year-low, the U.S. is now facing record unemployment highs.

Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's nearly five times the previous record set in 1982.
Here in Virginia, there were 46,885 people who applied in just that week.

The Virginia Employment Commission said three months ago, they might have seen, on average, 200 claims in one day. Now, they're seeing at least 2,000 in one day.

"We're funded by grants from the Department of Labor. They come down to the states to fund us administratively. It does not come out of any of the state coffers," William Walton, Unemployment Insurance Director for the Virginia Employment Commission, said.

After filing an unemployment application, preferably online, Walton advises that you should follow up after five business days by calling (800) 897-5630.

This is to ensure you're receiving your benefits and continuing the claims process.

"It would be after the second full week was even over before they would expect a payment, but they're eligible now much sooner," Walton said. "So, they're eligible to claim that week before they actually get the documentation from us in many cases."

The Virginia Employment Commission has experienced what it calls an unprecedented deluge in calls, and warns those trying to file jobless claims by phone that they will experience wait times of two hours or more. The commission plans to be open Saturday to take calls to try to deal with the volume, but those who have lost their jobs are urged to file their claims online if possible.

Walton said you should continue to follow up for continued claims as it is a week-to-week process.

More than 450 Virginians have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the most recent count Thursday from the Virginia Department of Health. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The vast majority of people recover.

As of March 21st, The Virginia Employment Commission reports the following industries had the most initial claims.

Unclassified: 36, 645

Food Services and Accommodation: 4,019

Health Care and Social Assistance: 907

You can see the full list below:

Va unemployment numbers