Record number of Virginians file for unemployment

Posted at 12:49 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 16:50:40-04

NORFOLK, Va. - More than 46,000 people in Virginia filed for unemployment last week, setting a new record, according to the Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy at Old Dominion University.

The previous record was set in December 1989, when about 25,000 people filed for unemployment, the center said.

"This is historic for the United States, and it's historic for Virginia," said Dr. Robert McNab, the director of the center.

Nationwide, nearly 3.3 million people filed for unemployment, which is also a record.

"There's a lot of stress on the economy right now coming out of social distancing measures," McNab said. "It's a trade-off right now between jobs and economic growth and controlling the spread of COVID-19."

Comparing the numbers week to week, about 44,000 more people in Virginia filed for unemployment compared to the week before. "What we're seeing is significant layoffs in food services, hospitality, other forms of accommodation," McNab said.

Still, some relief could soon be on the way. Late Wednesday night, the U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, which includes $600 in additional unemployment benefits a week for people along with stimulus checks. The House still needs to pass it.

Even with that effort, their work might not be done.

Related: How to file for unemployment due to coronavirus cutbacks

"Even if we're able to relax social distancing measures in a month or two, you're still going to have the recovery from social distancing," McNab said. "That's not going to occur over a matter of weeks."

Meanwhile, businesses are trying to adjust. Some who are allowed to stay open, like restaurants, are shifting to takeout only. Only time will tell how long that is sustainable.

"This is sort of a new normal for a short period of time, hopefully," McNab said. "We're all trying to figure out how to adjust and adapt."

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