News & Politics

Thousands of Furloughed Federal Employees File for Unemployment as Shutdown Lingers

As the shutdown enters its second week, the District, Virginia, and Maryland are all reporting large numbers of unemployment claims from federal employees forced out of work.

Government unemployment agencies in DC, Maryland, and Virginia are reporting massive spikes in jobless claims since the shutdown began a week ago. The District’s Department of Unemployment Services says it has received more than 11,000 unemployment claims from furloughed federal workers. In a typical week, the District, where the unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, receives about 600 new claims. In Maryland, more than 16,000 shut-out workers have filed.
The Virginia Employment Commission is still tallying its figures, but the agency’s spokeswoman, Joyce Fogg, there were 3,500 more unemployment claims filed last week than the average for the previous five weeks.
At least 1,000 people have filed for unemployment payments in the past 24 hours alone, says Najla Haywood, a spokeswoman for the DC Department of Employment Services. As the shutdown drags on, she expects more federal workers to file.
For now, DC can cut checks to the throngs of furloughed feds, but with the District government’s own financing on tenuous ground thanks to the shutdown, it could get tricky if the shutdown goes for several weeks. “There is [money] right now, but we’re also uncertain about what the future holds,” Haywood says.
In one of the rare Capitol Hill agreements since the shutdown began, the House on Saturday passed a bill to pay back the 800,000 federal employees who are currently forced out of work. The White House said it supports the bill, though the Senate has not yet taken up the issue. If federal workers are paid the wages they missed because of the shutdown, as they did after being furloughed in the 1995-96 shutdown, those who received unemployment benefits will be required to pay back their local governments.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.