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Southern Oregon job losses slow, but still huge during COVID-19 pandemic

Jackson County saw 1,286 unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 9.

According to the Oregon Employment Department, 14,785 claims have been filed since March 15, or 15% of the 98,950 people who were working in Jackson County at the end of 2019, which includes those in agriculture and the self-employed.

“This should be the bottom of it unless we go back to more restrictions,” said Guy Tauer, regional economist for the state Employment Department.

He said many industries have begun to open back up, including the health care sector. Businesses such as restaurants and salons started welcoming customers back Friday.

The worst week for unemployment claims in Jackson County was the week ending April 4, when 2,783 people filed for unemployment benefits. Since then the number of new claims has decreased, except for the week ending May 2 when it went up slightly.

For the week ending March 14, just before the pandemic ravaged the economy, 198 claims were filed. Every week since then has seen greater job losses than at any time during the Great Recession.

The claims data for Jackson County are still preliminary and don’t capture all of those who filed for unemployment compensation.

The official April unemployment rate will be released next week for the county. The March rate was 3.9%, which reflected a 10-year downward trend.

Job losses throughout Oregon also seemed to be slowing, with 25,082 claims filed for the week ending May 9 compared to the high of 54,549 for the week ending April 4.

Since the economic downturn started in mid-March, the state has received 396,000 unemployment claims, of which 335,036 have been processed.

Still, many have waited five or six weeks without receiving any benefits. The Employment Department has 690 employees working seven days a week to process the claims.

The Employment Department expects to launch the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program this week, which would provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits for those who remain out of work because of COVID-19 closures. Those receiving unemployment can typically qualify for up to 26 weeks of benefits.

Josephine County’s job losses mirrored the state trend with 438 for the week ending May 9 compared to 839 for the week ending April 4.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.