By Associated Press • 

COVID-19 causes record jobless benefits claims in Oregon

By ANDREW SELSKY Associated Press


SALEM, Ore. (AP) — As the COVID-19 pandemic claims more jobs, a record number of people in Oregon filed for unemployment insurance benefits last week, the state employment department reported Thursday.


During the week starting March 22, the Oregon Employment Department received 92,700 initial claims — a 21% increase from the previous week, which also set a record.


Gov. Kate Brown said she would call a special legislative session once state officials have a clearer picture of how a federal economic stimulus package will benefit Oregon, so scarce state dollars can fill as many gaps as possible.


“Once we have sufficient clarity about the federal stimulus, I will call a special session and ask lawmakers to take further action,” Brown said.


The federal package includes investments in essential medical supplies, expanded unemployment insurance, and increased support for small businesses.


People who held jobs classified as leisure and hospitality in Oregon led those whose unemployment claims were processed last week, with 15,514. Restaurants and bars have closed as part of stay-at-home orders issued by Brown to try to slow the spread of the virus. There were 8,491 claims from workers in education and health services.


The employment department is dealing with a backlog of claims as the numbers of people seeking benefits has skyrocketed. Over the past two weeks it doubled the number of staff dedicated to taking claims, and is in the process of tripling it.


“This initial surge in claims is probably tied to the first round of social distancing measures, but as those policies ramp up or cover more industries or regions of the country, we will see more workers file for unemployment insurance,” said Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.


Nationally, the coronavirus outbreak has thrown 10 million Americans out of work in just two weeks.


Brown said her team is also reviewing recommendations from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response to determine which are the most urgent and how they can be accomplished.


Counties with the largest number of unemployment benefits claims were Multnomah with 10,900, Washington with 5,300, and Lane with 4,200. The largest percentage increases in initial claims over the week occurred in Harney and Tillamook counties.


For most people, the 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.


As of Wednesday, there were 19 recorded deaths from coronavirus in Oregon, with 736 people having tested positive, the Oregon Health Authority reported.




Andrew Selsky is on Twitter at


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