Issue 26 | January 25, 2021
Stronger Together Spokane:
Workforce System Response to COVID-19
We are watching our regional economic statistics very closely as we enter into the first quarter of 2021 and seeing several positive signs in the labor market. Several key indicators are pointing in the right direction, including the trend of fewer people filing for unemployment for the first time and those continuing to receive several types of unemployment benefits. This may signal that people are indeed returning to jobs in our economy and the pace of hiring is picking up. However, there are two indicators that remain a source of concern and underlying weakness in our economy. One is the number of people that are transitioning to longer term unemployment insurance benefits, indicating that they have exhausted all prior benefits and are on their last 13 weeks of receiving income support. The other significant indicator is the number of people receiving state food assistance. The latest figure from November of 2020 is there are 89,500 people in Spokane County whose monthly income qualifies them for help with buying food for themselves and their families. While both of these reveal that many people are still facing economic challenges, our workforce system is poised to help people make the journey back into the job market and reach self-sufficiency.
Please join us in getting the word out that we have an array of training and reemployment resources available to help plan and then take the steps needed to advance their careers. If you or someone you know needs help getting back into the workforce, please get in touch with our staff at WorkSource Spokane or call (509) 532-3120.

We are Stronger Together Spokane.

Mark Mattke
Chief Executive Officer
Community Investment Dashboard

Tracking the SWC's Investment in Our Community's Recovery.
Labor Market Update

For the week ending January 16, there were 1,298 initial claims for unemployment insurance in Spokane County, down 31% (-582 claims) from the week prior. This week’s initial claims total was the lowest level observed in two months.
The impacts of state-wide economic restrictions and the seasonality of the construction industry were primarily felt in the prior weeks, and now a more normalized level of initial claims is reported. However, this new normal is still heightened over pre-pandemic patterns, as there were 669 initial claims for unemployment insurance this same time last year.
In the most recent week, there were also 284 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims (-18.6% change from prior week), and 271 Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims (-19.8% change from prior week).
Industries with the Highest Number of Regular Initial Claims for the Week Ending January 16:
  • Accommodation and Food Services (167 initial claims)
  • Construction (160)
  • Healthcare and Social Assistance (144)
  • Retail Trade (118)
  • Administrative and Waste Services (117)
Weekly Initial Claims | Spokane County

For the week ending January 16, there were 22,067 continued unemployment claims filed in Spokane County across all four claims types. Both regular and PUA continued claims totals increased over the past two months and have begun to decline once again. PEUC claims, the federal extension of unemployment compensation for an additional 13 weeks that was created by the CARES Act, have been decreasing for weeks. However, there has been a concurrent increase in extended benefit continued claims, indicating those who are now on a final 13-week extension of unemployment insurance available through the State of Washington. In the most recent week, 3,287 workers in Spokane County are in this situation.
It is vitally important to re-engage these workers with new employment opportunities or worker retraining, as long-term unemployed individuals often have the most difficult time becoming re-employed.

During the Great Recession a decade ago, a large number of long-term unemployed workers simply exited the labor force altogether. To help combat this now, WorkSource Spokane has developed the (re)Employ Spokane initiative; more information can be found here:
Continued claims for the week ending January 16:
  • Regular Continued Claims: 9,417 (-4.6% change from prior week)
  • PUA Continued Claims: 6,379 (-0.7% change from prior week)
  • PEUC Continued Claims: 2,984 (-6.0% change from prior week)
  • Extended Benefits Continued Claims: 3,287 (+10.1% change from prior week)
Weekly Continued Claims by Type | Spokane County

We’ve previously highlighted the crisis of food insecurity for Spokane residents over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data for November 2020 was recently released by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, showing that 89,500 residents in Spokane County continue to receive SNAP basic food assistance, commonly referred to as food stamps. This is a dramatic increase over the same timeframe last year, in which 10,000 residents were receiving basic food assistance.
As the economy recovers from the effects of the pandemic, the need for food assistance in our community continues to run very high. November’s reported level of SNAP basic food recipients represents over 17% of the county’s total population.
WorkSource Spokane Campus Updates
Since moving to remote services on March 17, 2020, our campus is proud to have virtually served thousands of job seekers and businesses. 
Heading into 2021, we are continually innovating ways to serve our customers virtually more effectively. Below is a summary of new projects and initiatives that will kick off 2021 throughout our campus.