This week marks a traumatic anniversary for many Washingtonians. A year ago, the state announced the first major wave of unemployment claims as the economy closed under COVID-19.
The report showed that last week, Washington filed 128,962 new or “preliminary” claims for unemployment insurance with the State Department of Homeland Security (ESD).
The introduction was one of the first sound indicators of the economic price that Washington would pay for COVID-19. During that week, March 15-21, or the 11th week of 2020, Washington filed five times more unemployment claims than during the worst week of the Great Depression in December 2008.
And there were signs that the 11th week would be over.
When government officials tried to pay unemployment benefits, Washington’s rapidly growing army of unemployed feared the worst.
Robert Jacob Jacobs, 65, of South Seattle, who was simply fired as a substitute teacher, recalls being shocked by media reports of job losses. “Good,” he said to himself. “We have been waiting a long time here.”
Many economists expected job losses to continue, although there was little consensus on the final estimates, largely because no country had previously cut its economy.
“Although we knew this would be historically catastrophic for the economy, it was impossible to get a very accurate estimate [claims] numbers, “said Paul Turek, an economist at ESD State.
In fact, months before the first major layoffs, some experts did not focus on the prospect of major job losses in Washington. Instead, in January and early February, as COVID-19 disrupted deliveries from China, the economic downturn was seen “more in terms of the impact of the supply chain than in terms of local labor shocks,” recalls ESD Regional Anneliese Vance. Sherman. an economist covering the Seattle area.
Even in mid-February, local economic impacts seemed to be limited by a shortage of spare parts.
But after February 28, when King County recorded what was supposed to be the first death in the United States due to COVID-19, the picture of the labor market began to be in the spotlight.
Within a week, King County offered employees to work from home, and Microsoft and Amazon քանի allowed several other major employers to require employees in Seattle to work remotely.
In the second week of March, mass layoffs were already underway across the state, with the trend accelerating after Governor Aye Insley ordered the closure of all non-performing businesses on March 23. The same day, Boeing announced that it would temporarily suspend Puget. Voice actions.
On March 19, the ESD reported the first increase in unemployment claims, to 14,154 for the previous week. That was almost three times more than they were for Week 10 of 2019.
One week after the ESD announced the first large demand figures of 133,464 (later revised to the current figure of 128,962), it was clear that the state labor market had shifted to unknown waters.
“The speed and scale of COVID-19’s impact have created a crisis that is unprecedented in the history of the program. It dates back to the 1930s, when it was created, ”said ESD Commissioner Susie Levine in a March 26 statement.
The inflation was just beginning. The 11th week of lawsuits featured layoffs that preceded Inslee’s March 23 stay at home, which meant a much bigger wave was expected.
“We have not seen the worst of it yet,” warns Jacob Wigdor, an economist at the University of Washington, by e-mail from March 26, 2020.
Indeed, a week later, the state reported 181,975 new claims for the 12th week, followed by 170,063 և 143,241. (All claim data represent revised figures.)
The lawsuits were short-lived during the 15th week (April 12-18) at 82,435. The following week, they rose to 137,605 as tens of thousands of gig workers, contractors, and other workers who were not normally eligible for unemployment benefits filed for newly created epidemic benefits.
In April, Washington lost 410,000 jobs, or 16.5 percent of the state’s workforce. In February, for comparison, the unemployment rate was 3.8%.
The claims of the weekly unemployed have turned into a grim ritual that is equivalent to counting COVID-19 cases in the labor market.
“You’ll see the lawsuit data coming in, and tonight you’ll see friends change their LinkedIn status,” recalls Mason Louvera, a spokesman for the Bellue Association. “It was immoral.”
As allegations mounted, patterns emerged that prompted the uneven economic downturn as many individual jobs disappeared, while many office workers simply went home.
Of the 1.2 million initial job losses in the first 10 weeks of the epidemic, about one in 12 are construction workers. every 11 retailers; և every nine from food service և accommodation.
On the contrary, less than 2% of the claims submitted during those 10 weeks reached the employees of technology companies.
The cuts also led to lower և lower wages. As Vance-Sherman told The Breaking National in late March, losses were high in areas such as housing and food service, which were “dominated by young people taking their first steps in the workforce.”
The lawsuits were disproportionately heavy in the heart of the city, where business was “abruptly and brutally shut down,” recalled Jon on Scholes, president and CEO of the Center Seattle Association.
As was done in other states, the ESD was rapidly overwhelmed week by week as it struggled to recycle claims involving more than a million unemployed Washington workers who were receiving more than $ 16 billion in benefits.
The tsunami of lawsuits also allowed criminals to file tens of thousands of fake lawsuits, which eventually turned out to be $ 600 million in fraud.
A year later, most of the tsunami subsided. The most recent report on weekly claims, 11th week, but in 2021, shows 11,398 new claims, which was a small fraction of the number reported a year ago. The state economy added 24,500 jobs in February and unemployment rose 5.6%.
The damage can not be repaired yet. Last week’s new requirements almost double the number for the same week in 2019. The state labor force still had 124,600 fewer jobs in February than a year before the epidemic.
And one reason the unemployment rate is so low, says Wigdor of UW, is that many unemployed people have simply stopped looking for work. Wigdor says the state’s so-called labor force participation is at its lowest level since 1976.
He likens the situation to “flood victims who have survived the storm, return to their homes when the water recedes, it is a complete mess.”
“The worst is over,” he added. “But we have a difficult way back.”