Downtown Lancaster

An empty Penn Square is seen in this file photo taken during the late morning on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

The number of people becoming unemployed in Lancaster County last week was the smallest since the COVID-19 outbreak began two months ago, new data show.

Still, the number of county residents filing initial claims for unemployment benefits was about seven times larger than the typical weekly number before the pandemic struck.

Nearly 1,400 Lancaster County residents submitted their initial claims last week, the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board reported Thursday, down 25.0% from the volume seen the prior week.

Last week’s volume also was 91.3% below the pandemic’s peak volume of initial claims. That occurred when 15,700 initial claims were recorded in the week ended April 4.

The local trend mirrors the state and national patterns, where the volume of initial claims is dwindling but remains far above the pre-pandemic norm.

Including the latest local figure, the pandemic has pushed 52,500 county residents into unemployment since the beginning of March, according to the board. That’s roughly five times the number of jobless county residents before the outbreak.

Contributing to the volume of recent initial claims were furloughs announced by Dart Container (500 employees) and Manheim Auto Auction (682 employees).

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

But at the same time, an unknown number of idled workers have returned to work.

Most notably, the vast majority of 6,000 furloughed construction workers here have returned to their jobs, contractors say, as Gov. Tom Wolf on May 1 expanded the definition of permissible projects to include those that were not life-sustaining.

Looking at the state and national figures, Pennsylvania reported 59,900 initial claims last week, down 19.2% from the prior week. Last week’s mark was the lowest since the pandemic began by far.

Some 1.9 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 2.4 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 38.6 million.