‘Unprecedented’: DC region not immune from layoffs in wake of pandemic

The D.C. region is not immune from the steep economic drop that has gripped the nation due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the rise in unemployment claims shows that.

More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, signaling that layoffs are accelerating, The Associated Press reported.

In the last two weeks, Maryland has taken in over 120,000 unemployment insurance claims — “unprecedented experiences” for the state’s program, said Bryan Moore, the deputy assistant secretary for the Maryland Department of Labor.

“To give you some context of that, we typically have about 40,000 claims filed in a year,” Moore said in a webinar for businesses in Prince George’s County on Thursday.

With stay-at-home orders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, hard-hit industries include the area’s food and hospitality sectors.

As many as 1 in 4 D.C.-area restaurants may not be able to open back up after the pandemic passes, Kathy Hollinger, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, told WTOP earlier this week.

Reacting to the catastrophic record numbers of Americans filing for unemployment benefits, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said that the District had seen the “first wave” of workers file for unemployment — concentrated in the restaurant and entertainment industry.

Bowser closed theaters and other entertainment venues and ordered restaurants to cease dine-in services two weeks ago.

And though many restaurants continue to operate in some form, they are taking in, at best, 30% of what they normally would in sales, and that 92% of the food service employee base had been let go, Hollinger said.

First-time claims in Virginia and Maryland more than doubled from last week’s spike. In D.C., the numbers rose only modestly from last week.

In Virginia, some 160,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks. In D.C. that number is about 29,000.

As of Thursday morning, there are more than 4,500 known COVID-19 cases in the region.

WTOP’s Rick Massimo, Jack Moore and Jeff Clabaugh contributed to this report. 

More Coronavirus News

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up