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Unemployment claims hit pandemic low; experts project encouraging job outlook for Hampton Roads

Experts say initial and continued unemployment claims should keep falling over the coming months, and employment in Hampton Roads will rise.

NORFOLK, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor says 684,000 people filed initial claims for benefits last week – a pandemic low. Business experts say job market trends in Hampton Roads are encouraging, too.

Virginia is one of the only states to report an increase in initial unemployment claims last week, but the number of Virginians receiving unemployment benefits is steadily decreasing.

“If you look at the latest data it suggests we’re seeing hiring coming back in the hardest hit sectors in Hampton Roads," said Bob McNab, an economics professor at Old Dominion University.

McNab projects big growth in the hospitality, tourism, and restaurant industries this summer.

“As vaccines roll out into the population, consumer confidence and business confidence is rising," he said.

National initial unemployment claims may be at a pandemic low, but they’re still historically high.

“Every week since March 2020 we have had more people file for unemployment than at the peak of the previous recession," McNab said.

McNab said he isn’t concerned about small spikes in Virginia initial unemployment claims, as long as long-term unemployment numbers fall.

“We should see a quicker recovery as long as a majority of the population gets vaccinated as quickly as possible."

The Virginia Employment Commission extended three major unemployment programs – the PUA, PEUC and an additional $300-a-week benefit – through September 4. The new federal stimulus package called for the extensions.

The VEC reports more than 17,000 people filed their first claims for unemployment benefits last week. More than 58,000 Virginians are submitting weekly claims for benefits.


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