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September 19 2020
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Oregon unemployment claims jump from 800 to 18,500 after 3 days of coronavirus layoffs
by Bob Heye and KATU Staff
  Thursday March 19, 2020 - 11:12 AM
 
The layoffs surrounding the coronavirus outbreak are undoubtedly having an immediate impact on Oregon's economy, but right now officials aren't sure exactly how deep that impact will go.

Oregon's Employment Department says the number of unemployment insurance claims rose from about 800 on Sunday (March 16) to nearly 18,500 on Tuesday (March 18).

People trying to file unemployment claims apparently faced delays in accessing the online system Tuesday night because of the crush of filings.

"Overnight, we did some maintenance for our online claim system," said Gail Krumenauer, interim communications director for the Oregon Employment Department. "And today [Wednesday] so far it is working much faster and more effectively for people who are trying to get through online. In addition, as of tomorrow, we will have another new contact center that's open. So we're increasing the number of people who are able to help those who are affected by this pandemic."

Officials with the department say laid off workers shouldn't wait to file for unemployment, even if they only think their layoff is temporary, because no one really knows how long it will last.

Some people have seen delays accessing the website to file unemployment claims. To file an online claim for unemployment benefits, go to Oregon.gov/employ or call 1-877-FILE-4-UI.

Employment officials say waiting to start the filing process only delays any unemployment benefits, and continued coronavirus restrictions are likely to trigger more unemployment claims.

There is a big reason so many employers are laying off people - especially restaurant workers - who may make a lot of their income from tips. If workers stay on a company payroll in any capacity at all, they can't file for unemployment benefits.

One important question is, what happens if you're sick or under quarantine and not able to go to work?

Under those circumstances, according to the employment department website, you would be eligible for unemployment benefits because you are unable to work.

The most recent statistics from Oregon's Employment Department are from February, when unemployment was at around 3 percent with a robust economy.

Analysts are bracing for the next report in April, which will be the first to incorporate unemployment brought on by business shutdowns because of coronavirus restrictions.

"I've worked for the employment department's research section for 33 years and we've never had an economic situation like this," said David Cooke, an economist with the Oregon Employment Department. "The other economic cycles are - most of them have been precipitated by financial shocks. And this is basically an exogenous shock to the economy."

State employment analysts don't expect to know the full extent of unemployment fallout from the coronavirus until May, because anyone who has worked any part of a full week is still considered statistically employed.

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