Thousands to return to work as construction resumes in WA

Coronavirus

Officials say 100,000 unemployment claims were filed by construction trade workers

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The reopening of the construction industry in Washington is expected to usher in relief for thousands who have been out of work. 

Shutdowns have affected the construction industry particularly hard in Washington. State officials say construction trade workers accounted for a huge chunk of unemployment claims—second only to hospitality workers. 

Nick Demerice, the public affairs director for the Employment Security Department, said numbers from just over a week ago show around 605,000 unemployment claims were filed with about 100,000 coming from workers in construction trades. 

“The construction sector was our largest sector that created unemployment claims in the last week,” Demerice said. “When you get to 605,000 total claims that number that needs additional review and assistance is really large.” 

Inslee said getting those construction workers back on the job under proper safety guidelines is part of a slow re-opening process. He announced on Friday that he will allow “low-risk” construction to resume.

Washington construction guidelines

Construction had resumed on a waterfront high rise in Vancouver by Wednesday evening. Signs emphasizing new state-mandated safety rules were put up all over the job site. 

“When we opened up construction it was with an order that people will maintain social distancing and that means six feet,” Inslee said.

Updated unemployment numbers could be released Thursday, said Demerice. He expects those figures to reach new highs—his team estimates as many as 1 million claims will be submitted starting Sunday. 

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