Issue 16 | August 18, 2020
Stronger Together Spokane:
Workforce System Response to COVID-19
The past week saw the continuation of a downward trend in the numbers of people filing for and receiving unemployment benefits. This may be a hopeful sign that more people are able to return to work as employers find new ways of doing business, and some markets are picking up. At the same time, there are still record numbers of people in our community unable to re-connect to their prior job or find a new one and are falling behind on rent or mortgages, adding another worry that their housing may be in jeopardy. To help alleviate some of this concern, the Spokane Workforce Council is partnering with the City of Spokane and has been awarded $822,000 in CARES Act funds by the Spokane City Council to repay missed housing payments going back to April 1 and up through October of this year. This is in addition to $500,000 in rental assistance awarded from the City of Spokane last month. We are deploying these funds through the Spokane Resource Center with the goal of stabilizing individuals and their families’ housing and then connecting them to the services and resources they need to succeed on their path to reemployment and the economic recovery.

We are Stronger Together Spokane.

Mark Mattke
Chief Executive Officer
Labor Market Update
Initial Claims
In the week ending August 8, there were 1,283 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a decrease of 20% from the prior week (1,599), and the lowest weekly level since the pandemic impacts began. The end of the $600 per week of additional federal unemployment assistance may be impacting the number of new weekly filers for unemployment insurance. Although lower than previous weeks, the current level of initial claims would still be at historic levels compared to any time prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic, including the Great Recession. Industries with the most new initial claims for this week in Spokane County were:
  • Health Care and Social Assistance (171 new weekly claims)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (167)
  • Administrative and Waste Services (116)
  • Construction (106)
  • Educational Services (98)

Continued Claims
Continuing claims for unemployment insurance decreased to 15,950 in the week ending August 8. The number of individuals filing regular unemployment claims has been slowly decreasing for months, and is now less than half the amount of continued claims observed at the peak in mid-May. The current level of continued claims is still well above the peak continued claims level of the Great Recession last decade (approximately 14,000).
The regular continued claims number does not include any of the expanded unemployment claims types which were part of the CARES Act in response to the pandemic. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims have also continued to decrease slightly since they peaked in late May. However, continued PUA claims are decreasing at a much slower rate than regular continued claims. Those who are currently receiving PUA benefits may have a more difficult time returning to their pre-pandemic employment situations, as gig and freelance work is experiencing major disruptions currently.
Another expanded benefit of the CARES Act was Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which expanded the length of time a worker may claim unemployment. The number of workers continuing to claim PEUC has steadily increased, reaching 1,488 claims in Spokane County the week ending August 8. The PEUC number indicates a level of long-term unemployment, as individuals making these claims have exhausted the length of time allowed on a regular unemployment claim.
Data Source: Washington State Employment Security Dept/LMEA
Workforce Services Update
Since moving to remote services on March 17th, our campus has provided 15,006 services to unemployed individuals and 1,202 services to local businesses. Below is a summary highlighting the achievements of the past week.
Talent Solutions
Our Talent Solutions Team continues to assist local employers with navigating remote hiring, promoting open positions and assisting with return-to-work resources. They recently published the Return to Work Resource Guide which can be found on the updated business resources web page. They also launched an email campaign highlighting immediate employment opportunities to assist local employers. Additionally, they are preparing for a virtual job fair occurring on September 15. Employer registration has opened for that event. Interested business can click here for registration information.  
“Thank you, I found your insight very helpful and we are moving forward with a candidate.”
- Local Business Customer
WorkSource Spokane
The dedicated members of team WorkSource Spokane continue to expand virtual services, including having offered eight statewide workshops in the past week. They are finding creative ways of promoting their content, with a new Apprenticeship Workshop to be available in the near future. As always, career coaches are available by phone to assist anyone looking for work. Visit or call 509-532-3120. 
Next Generation Zone
The staff at the Next Generation Zone continues to encourage engagement with education and career exploration. They have graduated seven young adults since July 1 from the education center, in partnership with NorthEast Washington Educational Service District 101 and Spokane Community College. Their new SnapAd campaign continues to be successful with over 160 swipe-ups in the past three days. One of their youth interns is developing an art contest for young adults to share what diversity and inclusion means to them. Mediums include photography, drawing, painting, spoken word, poetry or stories. Submissions will be displayed throughout the community as well as at Next Generation Zone upon reopening. Check out their Facebook page for the most current updates at
“My first day went pretty well! It's way smaller than I expected and there are not too many kids so it wasn't overwhelming or difficult to work alongside the teacher. I like that the classes are small because It gives me the opportunity to really get to know everyone! I'm excited to go back tomorrow!”

- Participant who just began a paid internship at Corbin Arts Center
Spokane Resource Center
August has been a busy month at the SRC in large part due to a new grant awarded to the Spokane Workforce Council/Spokane Resource Center for housing rental support. The team is currently receiving 100-150 calls each day, and during the week of August 3rd-7th, they processed over $28,000 of rental support, which is expected to be at least doubled each week going forward. The team has a waitlist of 200, which is actively being processed. In response to the high call volume, SRC leadership updated their phone system to offer automated greeting to reduce the wait time. While they would prefer to have a caller connect directly to a staff member, the call volume no longer allows that approach for the time being. Please visit their website for more information
“Thank you so much for your help with my rent. I have been so behind on bills because of COVID, and it is nice to have one thing off my mind. I was so scared that I was going to be evicted and this is what I needed to get ahead. I am now working again and can start to concentrate on other bills.”

- Customer who received rental assistance through our new grant