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The number of initial unemployment Insurance claims filed in Oregon rose from approximately 800 on Sunday, March 16 to a total of 18,500 on Tuesday, March 18, according to Oregon Employment Department communications director Gail Krumenauer.

“Although we know the COVID-19 coronavirus is causing a reduction in economic activity both nationally and in Oregon, it’s too early for unemployment rate or payroll jobs numbers to show the impact of these employment disruptions,” she said. “Employment Department staff will reach out to employers and affected workers filing claims to determine eligibility for Unemployment Insurance benefits, and continue to evaluate eligibility requirements and benefits on a case by case basis.”

Krumenauer said the Oregon Employment Department provides Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits to most workers who are out of work through no fault of their own. To get benefits, workers must meet some requirements. In general, to claim and receive unemployment benefits for a week, workers must be available for work, able to work, and actively look for work they can do. Today the Employment Department enacted temporary rules to give more flexibility in providing unemployment benefits to COVID-19 affected workers.

Unemployment insurance benefits are available during temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 situations. These benefits occur for employees whose employer stops operation for a short period of time, such as cleaning following a coronavirus exposure, or by government requirement. Workers can get unemployment benefits, and do not need to seek work with other employers if their place of employment will resume operations.

To receive benefits, affected workers must still be able to work, stay in contact with their employer, and be available to work when called back. A full resource guide with questions and answers about specific COVID-19 coronavirus-related situations and unemployment benefits is available at oregon.gov/employ. The site also has information for filing an online claim.

Meantime, the Oregon Employment Department’s Systems and Economic Analysis manager Nick Beleiciks said the state has recorded record low unemployment in both January and February.

The jobless rate of 3.3 percent is the lowest on comparable records dating back to 1976 and is below the U.S. unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in February.

“It’s too early to have data showing the employment impact, but the response to COVID-19 is causing a reduction in economic activity both nationally and in Oregon," Beleiciks said. "It will be weeks before we can accurately quantify the extent of the damage to Oregon’s labor market."

Beleiciks said Oregon’s labor force data for February shows little impact from the spread of the coronavirus since the February unemployment rate is based on people’s activity during the week that included February 12. The monthly unemployment rate is always based on a person’s employment status for the week that includes the 12th of each month.

By mid-February, there had been relatively limited economic impact from the disease in the U.S. In February, there were 69,000 unemployed Oregonians, which was the lowest number in more than 40 years.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 3,100 jobs in February, following a loss of 300 jobs in January. Two major industries added more than 1,000 jobs in February: construction (+1,700 jobs) and professional and business services (+1,300).

Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment increased by 26,600 jobs, or 1.4 percent, over the year since February 2019. In the past 12 months, transportation, warehousing, and utilities grew at the fastest rate of the major industries, expanding by 3,100 jobs, or 4.5 percent. Information also expanded rapidly, adding 1,100 jobs, or 3.2 percent, since February 2019.

Construction (+3,000 jobs, or 2.8%) and other services (+1,900 jobs, or 2.9%) also were leading industries of growth over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, only one industry shed a substantial number of jobs since February 2019; manufacturing dropped 3,700 jobs, declining 1.9 percent.

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