NORFOLK, Va. - More than 100,000 new Virginians filed for unemployment last week, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Dept. of Labor.
About 107,000 people filed initial unemployment claims last week, but that number is down about 40,000 compared to the week before. They join the more than 5.2 million people nationwide who filed, now totaling more than 22 million since mid-March.
"It's mildly better, but in a historical context it's still unprecedented," said Dr. Robert McNab, an economist from Old Dominion University, about comparing the past few weeks.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, about 415,000 people in Virginia have filed for unemployment.
In the past decade following the Great Recession, Virginia gained about 435,000 jobs, McNab said. "The gains in the last decade in terms of employment have largely vanished in the wake of COVID-19 and social distancing."
McNab also predicts a second wave of unemployment claims to becoming towards the end of the month and into May when professional business services and manufacturing feel the pinch. "The rate of people filing unemployment claims is going to decline, but they're still going to remain quite high as we're in this maximum social distancing mode," he said.
Right now, some are calling for Virginia to heads towards a path of reopening, but Gov. Northam has resisted those calls.
"When people say it's time to stop what we're doing and get back to normal, they're wrong," Northam said Wednesday.
For McNab, he points to how it's easy to look at the negative numbers of high unemployment, but harder to track the number of lives saved thanks to social distancing. "Right now, the cost benefit analysis suggests that the benefits of social distancing outweigh the economic costs," he said.
Still with some parts of the country seeing a flattening of the health curve, McNab has reason for optimism. "There's light at the end of the tunnel. We know that we're on the right path," he said. "Let's have the patience to get to the objective rather than jumping off the quick exit."
This week millions of Americans began receiving stimulus checks. McNab's advice is to hold on to it for now. "Having that financial cushion is important."