Surging Jobless Claims

During the week of March 15, the Oregon Employment Department received more than 76,500 initial claims for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

A wave of people out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic is flooding the Oregon Employment Department's claim system.

During the week of March 15, the Oregon Employment Department received more than 76,500 initial claims for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

During the first three days of the week of March 22, 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.

Regional workforce analyst Shawna Sykes told the Chronicle the overload of claims has trigger challenges.

"We have had some intermittent issues due to the high volume of unemployment claims but have recently enhanced the performance and stability of our online claims system, hired additional employees, shifted existing staff from other programs and opened up more phone lines to expand our capacity for starting unemployment claims," she said. "Still, record levels of unemployment claims will cause some wait times as the department works to gather and process details that factor into each claimant’s eligibility and individual weekly benefit amount."

Helping Oregonians

According to a release from the Employment Department, it has been proactive in its response to an abrupt disruption in the economy by enhancing the performance and stability of our online claims system.

"We will continue adding and training employees to process unemployment claims in the coming weeks," the release reads. "Still, record levels of unemployment claims cause longer wait times, as the department works to gather and process the details factoring into each individual claimant’s eligibility and weekly benefit amount.

The employment department is encouraging Oregonians who have lost their jobs to file claims using our online system to lower wait times by phone. A new video from the Employment Department shows step-by-step details for filing an online claim.

The department also continues to offer job seeker and employer services,including more phone and virtual options for appropriate social distancing.

"We are present to help Oregonians who have experienced tremendous disruptions, while also doing our part to follow health and safety guidelines for our communities," the release reads. 

The Employment Department’s COVID-19 web page serves as are source guide. It includes an overview of the Unemployment Insurance program, along with questions and answers about specific COVID-19 coronavirus-related situations and unemployment benefits.

Department officials said they continue to update the agency's site with the latest information related to COVID-19 as new federal and state guidelines change or expand benefits.

The Employment Department has also enacted temporary rules, which officials said adds more flexibility for unemployment benefits to help Oregonians affected by COVID-19 business closures.

With the initial claims of the 76,500 initial claims filed, the Oregon 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 Quality COVID-19 page.

To file an online claim for unemployment benefits, go to or call 1-877-FILE-4-UI. For help finding jobs and training resources, contact your local WorkSource Oregon center or go to

Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contac 503-947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

There are jobs available in Columbia County. See the attachment with this story.


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