Tanger April 3 (copy)

The parking lots are empty at Tanger Outlets Friday, April 3, 2020. All stores at Tanger are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 1,500 more Lancaster County residents sought unemployment benefits last week, indicating that joblessness remains rampant here, even as COVID-19 weakens.

New data released by the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board on Thursday show 1,485 county residents filed their initial claims last week, up 2.8% from the 1,366 initial claims the prior week.

The latest figures can be perceived as either discouraging or encouraging, depending on your perspective.

On the one hand, not only did the volume of initial claims go up slightly last week, it’s still about 10 times higher than the typical volume before the pandemic arrived in mid-March.

The previously reported furlough of 682 employees from the Manheim Auto Auction on May 15 undoubtedly contributed to last week’s initial claims.

On the other hand, the volume is only a tenth of the weekly peak seen in the middle of the pandemic. That spike occurred in the week ended April 4, when 15,700 initial claims were filed by county residents.

With the new round of initial claims, nearly 54,000 county residents have sought unemployment benefits since the pandemic hit, forced out of work when Gov. Tom Wolf closed large swaths of businesses to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The workforce board’s research shows that the job categories that have been hardest hit here are the construction, hospitality and finance industries.

The pandemic’s toll is about five times the 10,600 people here who were without work before the pandemic.

Still, all these statistics give an incomplete view of the extent of unemployment here.

For instance, they exclude people who lost jobs but haven’t sought jobless benefits as well as people who are out of work but not actively seeking a job.

They also fail to account for people who were getting unemployment but have since returned to work, such as people in the construction trades, who returned in droves after May 1 when Wolf broadened the kind of allowable construction work.

The trend in local claims mirrors the state and national patterns, where the volumes of initial claims likewise are far below their peaks but remain far above their pre-pandemic norms.

Pennsylvania reported 59,100 initial claims last week, down 1.4% from the prior week. Last week’s mark was the lowest since the pandemic began.

Some 1.95 million Pennsylvania residents have gone on unemployment since the pandemic started, according to state Department of Labor & Industry figures.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Labor says 2.1 million Americans filed initial claims last week. Again, that was the smallest weekly figure since the pandemic arrived, bringing the total during the pandemic to 40.8 million.