As expected, Oregonians are filing for unemployment insurance at record levels due to many of them being out of work because of coronavirus.

Last week the Oregon Employment Department received more than 76,500 initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits. During the first three days of this week, initial claims have been tracking at record levels again. This comes as a sharp increase from 4,900 initial claims filed during the week of March 8.

The employment department said it is taking several measures to meet the unprecedented need for unemployment benefits, which is largely due to reduced hours and layoffs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is a statement from the employment department:

“The employment department has been proactive in its response to an abrupt disruption in the economy by enhancing the performance and stability of our online claims system,” the statement said. “Over the past two weeks, the agency also hired new employees, shifted existing staff working in other program areas, and trained them, doubling the number of employees working on unemployment claims. We will continue adding and training employees to process unemployment claims in the coming weeks.”

The employment department warned the record claims will cause longer wait times and encourages Oregonians to file online to save time.

The employment department has also enacted temporary rules, adding more flexibility for unemployment benefits to help Oregonians affected by COVID-19 business closures.

Initial ClaimsOf the 76,500 initial claims filed, the employment department has detailed information for the 22,800 claims processed during the week. The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, saw the greatest number of initial claims for unemployment benefits (10,700). This reflects some of the early impact of public health and safety measures. Many initial claims also came from workers in health care (2,100) and retail trade (1,400).

Multnomah, Washington, and Lane counties had the largest number of processed claims during the week of March 15. The largest increases in initial claims occurred in Union and Clatsop counties. More initial claims data by industry and area can be found on the COVID-19 page.

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

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