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‘It May Be Because They Don’t See An End In Sight’ Unemployment Filings Spike

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Virginia Employment Commission central office, in downtown Richmond. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Almost 47,000 Virginians filed for unemployment last week as businesses laid off workers and slashed hours amid the coronavirus outbreak. It’s a seventeen-fold increase over the previous week’s unemployment numbers.

The U.S. Department of Labor released the latest unemployment numbers on Thursday. There were 46,885 claims filed during the week ending on March 21, compared with 2,706 claims the previous week. 

“We’re going to really have to keep staff working to keep up with the numbers,” said Joyce Fogg with the Virginia Employment Commission. 

Fogg said the department has extended customer service hours to include Saturdays from 9-1 and they’re hiring new staff. She suggests filing online rather than by phone because hold times are more than two hours. 

Fogg said the numbers aren’t all that surprising, as service industry employers, especially, are dealing with uncertainty. 

“It may be because they don’t see an end in sight,” Fogg said. 

Governor Ralph Northam waived the 7-day waiting period and also the requirement that applicants be actively looking for work. 

“The hope and the thought is that people will get back to their jobs, but of course we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Fogg said. “And if you had to do a work search, you would not be able to go out and search for work.”

File for unemployment benefits here: http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed.