OLYMPIA — More than 2,000 initial unemployment claims have been submitted by Pacific County workers since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, 263 county residents filed initial unemployment claims from April 26 through May 2, a week-over-week decrease of 30.1%. While down from the previous week, the figure is still about 10 times higher than the weekly average in January and February from this year, prior to the covid-19 pandemic.

Since March 1, a total of 2,205 initial claims have been filed by workers in Pacific County, a staggering number that represents 26.3% of the county’s labor force. It is not clear how many of the claims in the county are still active and being filed on a weekly basis.

The carnage caused by covid-19 has been felt across the country, as the U.S. Labor Department released its monthly employment report on May 8 showing that the national unemployment rate soared to 14.7% in April — the highest level it’s been since the Great Depression.

In all, at least 20.5 million jobs were lost across the U.S. last month, 10 times higher than the previous monthly high of 2 million jobs lost in September 1945, as the country began to wind down from World War II. During the Great Recession, the worst job loss in a month was 800,000 in March 2009.

State receives grant for laid off workers

ESD announced May 5 that the state received a $12 million disaster recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, which will go toward hiring unemployed workers for jobs aimed at helping Washington recover from the pandemic.

Among other things, the grant will go toward placing laid off workers into jobs that are responding or trying to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, such as positions in emergency management, processing unemployment claims and working at food banks or shelters. The grant also seeks to provide more workers with career coaches to help customized re-employment plans, short-term job readiness training for the unemployed and longer-term training to help people enter careers as the economy recovers.

The grant will prioritize help for people who live in rural areas, are low income or are people of color. ESD, in consultation with other state agencies, are still determining how many people will be able to be serviced by the grant.

“These funds will help Washington begin its pivot from disaster response to economic recovery,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a news release. “Washington was among only six states that received $12 million — the highest amount awarded. We’re planning ahead and will apply for more grants to keep cranking up our economic engines.”

Workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own are eligible to receive the benefits under the grant rules. Those interested should contact their local WorkSource center via phone or email. The Long Beach WorkSource’s main phone number is 833-572-8390, and its toll-free phone number is 800-269-6126.

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