Workforce System Response to COVID-19 – February 26 Report

A Message from CEO Mark Mattke

Good news this week! We are seeing positive trends as the rates of new COVID-19 case decrease throughout the state and our region. Our labor market is also experiencing trends in the right direction as the transition to Phase 2 in the reopening plan has contributed to increased economic activity and less people seeking unemployment benefits for the first time. We learned this week that Spokane has experienced the 5th highest level of inbound growth in the U.S. over the January-November 2020 period, eclipsing cities that included Austin, TX, Charlotte, NC, and Charleston, SC. As the recovery picks up steam, we will continue to attract people from all over the country and that will help fuel our continued economic growth.

I am also happy to report that our WorkSource Center and Next Generation Zone have seen an uptick in the number of people seeking reemployment and career guidance services in the last month. Our workforce professionals are connecting more people to educational programs, including in person and online courses as well as on-the-job training and apprenticeship, to prepare them for a new job. 

If you are looking to refresh your skills or begin a new career, please reach out to us  (509) 532-3120 or visit to get started on your next steps.

We are stronger, together!

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Community Investment Dashboard

Resource tracking of the SWC’s investments in our community’s recovery.

Labor Market Update

Unemployment | Initial Claims

Initial claims totals are moving in a promising direction as COVID-19 infections locally are declining and the economy is beginning to open up. 

For the week ending February 20, Spokane County saw 870 initial claims for unemployment insurance, down 10.7% from the prior week. This was the second-lowest weekly new claims total since the start of the pandemic and the second consecutive week with fewer than 1,000 regular initial claims for unemployment insurance since October 2020.
There were also 167 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims (-3.5% from prior week) and 200 Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims (-16.7% from prior week) for the week ending February 20.
Regular initial claims by industry for the week ending February 20
  • Construction (195 initial claims)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (89)
  • Retail Trade (76)
  • Healthcare and Social Assistance (73)
  • Administrative and Waste Services (71)

Unemployment | Continued Claims

Total continued unemployment claims across all types declined slightly in the week ending February 20, to 21,794 claims, down 0.7% from the prior week. Total continued claims remain at heightened levels, having only declined by 1,191 since the last week of 2020, with PEUC continued claims growing by more than 2,500 over this same time.
Both PEUC and extended benefits claims indicate the level of long-term unemployment in Spokane, as those claimants have fully exhausted their 27 weeks of regular unemployment insurance to be enrolled in those programs. Together, PEUC and extended benefits claims totaled 7,393 in the week ending February 20.
Continued claims by type for the week ending February 20
  • Regular Continued Claims: 8,313 (-3.8% from prior week)
  • PUA Continued Claims: 6,088 (-0.5% from prior week)
  • PEUC Continued Claims: 6,113 (+5.1% from prior week)
  • Extended Benefits Continued Claims: 1,280 (-7.6% from prior week)

Food Insecurity

The number of Spokane County residents receiving SNAP basic food assistance, commonly known as food stamps, increased to 91,900 in the month of December 2020, the highest monthly total since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of basic food recipients in December 2020 was approximately 13,000 higher than the same month from the prior year.
While the overall economy continues to rebound from the effects of the pandemic, food insecurity remains at significantly heightened levels within our community and highlights the uneven nature of the economic recovery.

WorkSource Campus Updates

Since our program year began in July of 2020, our dedicated professionals have provided over 23,500 virtual services to customers across our campus.
Below is a summary of projects and initiatives currently underway across our campus.

Signature Event to Make Its Virtual Debut

Meet the Employers, one of WorkSource Spokane’s most popular in-person events, will make its virtual debut on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. The unique hiring event combines the experiences of a job fair and a forum. Job seekers that attend will learn directly from business representatives about their industry, job openings at their business, and do’s and don’ts when submitting applications for employment. Following the Q&A session, job seekers will meet with the employers to discuss employment opportunities at their business.
The event will be held on the third Wednesday of each month going forward. Talent Solutions by WorkSource Spokane will send invitations to businesses on Monday, March 1, 2021, to generate interest and recruit diverse industries to participate.
Visit us here for more offerings from the Talent Solutions team, including the new “Let’s Talk” monthly Forum.

"I thought the [Let’s Talk forum] was great. Since I’m relatively new in HR, I am still trying to build a network of other HR folks. This feels like a good step in that direction. The content was good, too, and I’m looking forward to other topics."

Rental Assistance Updates

Spokane County CARES Act CDBG
Housing Specialists at the Spokane Resource Center (SRC) are working hard to process rental assistance applications received for the Spokane County CARES Act Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
Customers requesting assistance with rent have been working with Housing Specialists to provide all the appropriate documents to advance their applications through the program’s process. The first rent checks are scheduled to be delivered to landlords the week ending February 26, 2021. We want to thank our customers and agency partners for their patience.
ERAP for Young Adults
The City of Spokane has awarded the Spokane Workforce Council and its partners at the Next Generation Zone an additional $191,301 in Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funding for young adult rental assistance. This is the second award of this funding we have received within five months from the City of Spokane to provide housing support specifically to young adults through the Next Generation Zone. Thank you, City of Spokane!
Young adults who apply for rental assistance will also be offered education and career readiness resources from our center to help assist them as they work toward achieving their academic and career development goals.

"The employee that helped me with my application to pay rent was really nice. It was fun to work with her, and I'm glad we were able to video chat to complete everything."

Racial Equity

As Black History Month comes to a close, we want to share our journey of pursuing racial equity and anti-racist practices within our organization. In a partnership with Greater Spokane Progress, our team participated in the Why Race Matters training in the Fall of 2020 and took a closer look at racial inequities and biases here in Spokane. We have continued to educate ourselves on racial equity through a book club for our staff members (So You Want to Talk About Race by fellow Washingtonian Ijeoma Oluo was the first book we read and discussed) and by analyzing our organizational structure through the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) organizational assessment. 
Analyzing the impact of our practices and implicit biases on communities of color is a difficult and challenging process, and while change is not something that happens overnight, we are committed to improving our services for our customers of color. In honor of Black History Month, we encourage all businesses to take a closer look at their practices and see where improvements can be made to level the playing field for all Americans.

"We would like to thank the staff and board of Greater Spokane Progress and Kurtis Robinson for being an invaluable resource and for answering our questions throughout our Why Race Matters training."

Stories of Impact from Our Customers

The Spokane Workforce Council and our partners across the WorkSource Spokane campus are committed to sharing customer success stories through videos, articles, and social media posts to bring focus on the amazing achievements of area job seekers and businesses. 
Please watch the video below to see an inspiring success story from Next Generation Zone’s young adult customer Nikki.

Let's Collaborate!

If you know a job seeker that just re-entered the workforce or you represent a business that has utilized our recruitment and retention services, please contact Victor Rapez-Betty, our Communications Manager, to begin storyboarding the success video, article, or social media post.

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