How bad is the economic impact of the Covid-19 shutdown in Jefferson County? Initial numbers are trickling in, and they are ugly, indeed.
Thousands of county residents have been thrown out of work, according to data reported by the state Employment Security Dept., and the Office of Financial Management says that many who’ve lost their jobs also have lost their health insurance as a result.
A full 20 percent of the county’s civilian workforce filed new unemployment claims during the four weeks from March 15 through April 11. These 2,476 new claims contrast with 212 filings during the year’s first ten weeks combined.
Nationally, the U.S. has not seen unemployment above 20 percent since the 1930s. Before the Covid-19 shutdown, Jefferson County’s rate was 5.3 percent.
Joblessness soared in mid-March immediately after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered bars and restaurants temporarily closed and then ordered most people to stay home. The surge eased only a little in the weeks that followed, with 435 new claims in Jefferson county during April 5-11, the most recent week reported, down from 670 the week before.
Jefferson’s job loss so far is a little worse than the state average. Some 624,000 new jobless claims were filed statewide during the first four weeks after the shutdown, representing 16 percent of the civilian workforce.
Among so-called advanced societies, only in America is health insurance tied to a job, and a major flaw in that approach has been laid bare by the current crisis.
Along with unemployment, the number of Jefferson County residents without health insurance has soared, by 24 percent since early in the year. It’s estimated that 10.1 percent of county residents—about 3,200 people—are uninsured, compared with 8.1 percent before the pandemic.
As previously reported, the local rate of residents without health insurance were edging up before the shutdown, from a low in Jefferson of 5.3 percent in 2016, as President Trump and Republicans in Congress worked to weaken if not repeal Obamacare.
The statewide uninsured rate is almost as bad, at 9.9 percent, and it represents an even more wrenching change, up 47 percent from early this year. Counties that had lower uninsured rates to begin with have suffered the largest losses of coverage. The uninsured rate is up 59 percent in King County, 74 percent in Pierce, and 76 percent in Snohomish.