Layoffs spiking due to spread of COVID-19, oil and gas price war
Williston Job Services Office Manager Paula Hickel said office traffic jumped 50 percent this week and that the number of people coming in for unemployment claims was three times higher this week than last.
Most of the new claims were related to the slowdown in oil and gas, Hickel said.
"Most 'job-attached,' saying they'd be called back when things pick up," she added. "Many companies also cited the COVID-19 as a secondary/combined reason for the layoff."
Of the initial claims that weren't oil and gas-related, most cited the COVID-19 shutdown as the sole reason for the layoff. Only a few cited other reasons that didn't include the oil slowdown or COVID-19.
"The combination of low oil prices and the COVID-19 situation is a 'double whammy' for our oil and gas industry-driven workforce in Northwestern North Dakota ," Hickel said. "However, despite these challenges, job openings are continuing to be posted by employers. We were at a workforce shortage prior to these events, with 1,267 job openings listed in the region during February 2020 ."
The March job openings report will be released soon, Hickel added, and will provide a better picture of the current job scene.
Jobsnd.com allows individuals to search for a job, file unemployment insurance claims and find labor market information.
The Williston Job Services office is closed to the public, which includes a number of job fairs that were scheduled at the office. The upcoming semi-annual Job Fair has been postponed.
Despite the office being closed to the public, core services may still be accessed both online and by telephone. The Unemployment Claim Center is 701-328-4995 and the Williston Job Service Office is 701-774-7900. That line will continue to be answered.
Spike in unemployment claims is statewide
Statewide, new unemployment claims have spiked for the week ending March 14 , according to figures from Communications Strategy Manager Sarah Arntson .
There were 512 new unemployment claims for the week, 94 of which were in the mining industry category, which includes oil and gas.
"I can't say how many of those are COVID-related, because we didn't start asking for that information until yesterday," Arntson said.
Those figures for the same period last year were 177 less, or 335.
Overall claims, which includes continuing claims, however, were down for the same period.
Statewide there are 6,399 unemployment claims for the week ended March 14 . That figure includes the 512 new claims.
That compares to last year's 6,792 for the same period, which is 393 fewer claims.
"So overall we are down, but new claims filed this week are up over last year," Arntson said.