Customers keeping social distancing space line up for The Children’s Place Tuesday, July 7, 2020, at Valley Mall, 2529 Main St. in Union Gap, Wash.

The number of new unemployment claims in Yakima County dipped below 1,000 this past week for the second time since the coronavirus pandemic started.

State Employment Security Department data shows that 982 people filed first-time unemployment claims the week ending July 4, an 8.8% decrease from the 1,077 first-time claims filed the week ending June 27, according to state data.

The July 4 numbers were the second lowest behind the week ending June 13, when 958 new claims were filed.

The industries with the highest number of new unemployment claims were health care and social assistance with 161, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing with 142. Manufacturing had 105.

“The trend is moving in the right direction,” said Don Meseck, ESD’s regional labor economist. “If this continues, we are going to see continued declines in the unemployment rate.”

The numbers remain much higher than last year, when 279 people filed initial claims during the same time period, ESD data shows. Unemployment filings increased dramatically starting in mid-March, when nonessential businesses closed down due to the pandemic.

Meseck said the rate of loss in non-farm jobs has slowed between April and May both statewide and in Yakima County, another hopeful sign. In April, the job-loss rate was 13.5% in Yakima County, decreasing to 11.5% in May, while statewide the numbers went from 14.1% to 11.7%, Meseck said.

“Maybe that’s the silver lining in the dark cloud now,” Meseck said.

Employment numbers should also improve as Yakima County moves into Phase 1.5 of the state’s Safe Start program, Meseck said. As of July 3, more business activity was allowed in Yakima County, with limits.

Coronavirus Coverage

Because of the health and safety concerns, the Herald-Republic is allowing unlimited access with registration to our stories and resources about the novel coronavirus. However, if you’re able to subscribe, please support our journalism. Click here to start your digital subscription.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at dmeyers@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: donaldwmeyers, or https://www.facebook.com/donaldwmeyersjournalist.