WINCHESTER — Unemployment numbers around Virginia are rising with the decline in business due to the coronavirus, an official with the Virginia Employment Commission said Wednesday.

William Walton, an unemployment insurance director with the Virginia Employment Commission, said unemployment numbers were “absolutely” going up.

“We’ve seen a large increase as far as people filing for unemployment insurance,” Walton said. “I can tell you the numbers are significantly higher than they’ve been in a long time.”

Virginia’s current jobless rate is 2.7%.

Walton said the VEC is urging anyone filing for unemployment insurance to do so online at

“We’re experiencing high call volumes at our call center and long wait times,” Walton said. “We’re trying to stress internet filing because that’s the easiest access point to file a claim, and we don’t want folks going into offices to file claims. We want to keep that distance [to guard against the spread of the virus].”

Walton said some VEC employees have been reassigned so that claims can be handled more quickly and some have been identified as being able to work from home to ensure timeliness of the handling of claims.

Walton said it’s important, too, to know that you shouldn’t file for unemployment until you’re actually unemployed.

“If folks feel like they might be laid off in the future and they’re trying to file ahead of time, that’s not going to save time,” he said. “In fact, that costs more time in the end because when we review that we’ll tell you you weren’t eligible because you weren’t unemployed at that time. Then you have to start all over.”

The VEC website also has a link to a page specifically focused on the coronavirus. The page includes information on eligibility and that the currently weekly maximum benefit amount is $378. It also includes a list of questions and answers related to the virus.

Some of those questions include information on when you should file a claim for benefits, what happens after completing your application and how soon benefits can be expected, among others.

Data on which industries or areas are being impacted most by the coronavirus aren’t available yet.

“I’m hearing what challenges businesses are facing,” Walton said. “Restaurants obviously aren’t seeing as many patrons and anyone who serves the public in general is facing tough decisions on maintaining operations and that includes their staffing levels.”

— Contact Matt Welch at

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Mark Gunderman

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7


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