Weekly initial unemployment insurance claims in Clark County dropped 15 percent last week from the previous week, the largest decrease of any county in the state.
The initial claims fell from 1,425 to 1,215 in the county, and continued unemployment insurance claims also declined by about 8 percent, or 1,454 fewer, said Scott Bailey, regional economist for Southwest Washington.
“It’s still about four times what it was a year ago,” Bailey said. “We’ll have this glass-half-empty, glass-half-full situation for a while.”
The biggest decline in the county’s initial claims was in food services, which fell from 168 to 117 claims. Health care had the most significant decline in continued claims, with a drop of 336.
“It’s encouraging,” Bailey said. “‘I’m watching everything, but that’s the one to keep note of.”
Bailey said that with Clark County nearing Phase 3 and Multnomah County, Ore., nearing Phase 1 (which is similar to Clark’s Phase 2), the declines in initial and continued claims could continue to decrease.
Looking at how Phase 2 had an impact, but not a huge one, on claims in Clark County over the past two weeks, “it would be roughly half that size, with the rule of thumb that one of three people (in Clark County) works in Portland,” he said.
Bailey said continued claims in restaurants have dropped by almost 500 in the last two weeks, but there is some offset from restaurant closures, and the county is likely to see more. Health care should see increased employment as people start to return to appointments, including dental work, he said.
In the state as a whole, initial claims last week fell by about 2.3 percent, according to the Employment Security Department. The state paid out more than $454.7 million for 399,879 individual claims last week.