Unemployment claims spike in the region

Accommodations and Food Services industry has highest number of claims

Unemployment claims have surged in the central Puget Sound region, with more than 611,000 claims filed since early March.

Some of the region’s industries have seen more than half of their workforce file for unemployment. For example, Educational Services is down nearly 70% while Motor Vehicle/Parts Dealers and Arts & Entertainment have seen their workforce shrink by more than 50% compared to the period prior to the statewide shutdown of non-essential businesses.

The Accommodations and Food Services industry has been hit hardest in terms of total numbers of claims filed, followed by Construction & Engineering.

Road to recovery will happen in phases

On May 5, Governor Inslee announced Safe Start Washington, a phased approach to reopening.  Most of the state is now in Phase 1. Some counties outside the central Puget Sound region are being allowed to move to Phase 2. (On May 28, Kitsap County was allowed to move to Phase 2.)

Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks but could be extended if needed depending on disease trends and data.  The phased approach may also be adjusted as the pandemic evolves.

Industries vary in terms of when they can reopen.  For example, restaurants can open to in-person dining at 50% capacity in Phase 2 and up to 75% capacity in Phase 3.

Consumer confidence will continue to play a critical role.

Despite remaining open, several essential industries are still feeling significant impacts.  This suggests a downturn based on consumer behavior, rather than government mandate.  For example, a large share of the workforce in the Transportation Manufacturing and Educational Services sectors has filed for unemployment claims.

Further research and tracking will help understand how quickly industries begin to recover.