Unemployment filings down in Hampton Roads, but full job recovery to take years

Regional News

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — When unemployment filings decrease, it can be a sign of strength — or a sign that benefits are beginning to run out for people.

In the meantime, the head of Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy says getting all of these jobs back will take a long time.

“Over the last several weeks what we’ve seen is a decline in initial unemployment claims in Virginia,” said ODU Economics Professor Bob McNab.

This past week, 8,000 people in Hampton Roads filed for unemployment for the first time. That’s an improvement — it’s 1,100 fewer people than the week before.

“That’s still a very large number of people who are saying ‘I don’t have a job and I need financial assistance,'” McNab said.

Statewide, about 402,000 Virginians filed continued claims in the past week. That number is also slowing, but McNab cautions that can mean either of two things. In the good scenario, more people are finding work and no longer need their benefits. In the bad scenario, more people have exhausted their benefits and can no longer file claims.

The federal CARES Act calls for a $600 weekly supplement in addition to state unemployment benefits, but that bonus is set to expire at the end of July.

McNab would like to see the $600 supplement extended. Otherwise, millions of Americans won’t be in the stores when the economy does fully reopen; they’ll be out on the street.

“The worst thing we can do in terms of an economic recovery is to reopen the economy and restart activity, and then have a wave of evictions and foreclosures because we’ve cut unemployment assistance,” McNab said.

As far as Hampton Roads getting back to the level of employment prior to the coronavirus pandemic, McNab says we need to think in terms of years, not months. He says many retail jobs will never return, and travel sector jobs might return, but very slowly.

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