More than 800 Douglas County residents filed for unemployment insurance last week, a stark number but still considerably less than the number of people who filed at the beginning of the month, according to data released Thursday by the Oregon Employment Department.

The 806 initial unemployment claims processed last week for Douglas County residents was down about 40% from the record 1,353 processed the week ending April 4, said Brian Rooney, a regional economist with the department.

The health care and social assistance sector had the most processed claims in the county last week at 176, Rooney said. This is the first week in the past five weeks that restaurant and hotel employees did not have the most claims, Rooney said. That sector had the second-most claims with 167.

Altogether, 4,700 Douglas County residents have filed initial claims for unemployment insurance in the last five weeks. By comparison, just under 700 such claims were filed in the county in the same five-week period last year.

Statewide, nearly 37,000 more Oregonians filed their initial claims for unemployment insurance last week, pushing the total number of those filing for unemployment benefits to more than 333,000 since the middle of March, when the effects of COVID-19 began rippling through the state, department officials said.

Department officials said the agency continues to process claims at a record pace, resulting in $119 million in benefits paid to Oregonians last week.

Department officials also said they are continuing to add staff to handle the slew of claims, with more than 500 employees now handling such duties. The department had 225 workers a month ago. Those officials also said the department has leased space for a new contact center to help process more unemployment claims.

The department is also working to launch its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which will help the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers get unemployment funds they are now entitled to. The new program will also help workers not usually eligible for unemployment relief, due to too few hours or earnings, and those who were going to start work but could not, access benefits.

Efforts to launch the PUA program is ongoing and the department said it expects to begin taking applications by the end of the month.

Additional information on unemployment benefits can be found on the interactive dashboard of the agency’s COVID-19 page.

Most initial claims last week continued to come from the leisure and hospitality sector (8,000), which includes hotels and restaurants. This reflects the impacts of closures of restaurants and similar businesses related to the pandemic. Since the middle of March, about 60,800 initial claims filed came from restaurant and hotel workers, department statistics show.

Other sectors with the largest initial claims totals for the past five weeks include health care and social assistance (30,900) and retail trade (24,300). However, no sector has been immune to the economic shutdown. There have been 16,500 claims in professional and business services, and 18,200 in manufacturing, since mid-March.

Multnomah (6,800), Washington (4,000), and Lane (2,900) counties had the largest number of claims last week. Those same three counties have consistently had the largest number of initial claims in recent weeks.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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