Governor says economy will likely re-open in stages, but not yet. State unemployment nears 600,000.

Gov. Inslee says re-opening the economy will depend on getting past the public health crisis. The Seattle Times reports,

Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday said Washington’s economy will likely reopen in phases once state officials believe society can safely function amid the new coronavirus.

That plan could look something like a reverse process of how the state shut down in March in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, the governor said in a news conference on the virus.

“This transition will not be a light switch, on and off, it will be a dial,” said Inslee. “And we will dial it up and down, as the data suggest and as our community responds.”

The Times reports the governor’s thoughts on how the phase-in will progress.

“The phasing will be probably the reverse of what it was going into the effort,” Inslee said. “We started by the prohibiting large gatherings, we then closed on-site education in our schools, we then had a stay-home order in our individual lives, we then closed nonessential businesses.

“And that makes sense, because we’ll be bringing back the things that are most essential to our economic and physical and financial health,” the governor added later. “And then working out to the periphery things that might be some of the most joyful things in life, but not the most necessary to maintain our households, income and otherwise.”

Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday that Washington state has “a lot more work to do” in taming the coronavirus before the economy can start to be reopened here.

Jerry Cornfield writes in the Everett Herald that the governor’s comments come at a time when labor and business groups are asking him to get the construction industry back to work.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday spelled out conditions for bringing the state economy back online, as six statewide labor and business organizations presented him a detailed approach for one of the hardest hit sectors, the construction industry…

In a letter delivered Tuesday, they suggest that residential and commercial projects under way when the governor issued his March stay-home order should now be permitted to start up again — but only if contractors can abide by additional rules to ensure work “is done safely so as to not take a step backward in this pandemic fight.”

…The letter is signed by the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, Association of General Contractors, Building Industry Association of Washington and Association of Washington Business.

The Olympian also reports that local officials also want to see construction resume.

On Tuesday, the Whatcom County Executive and the mayors of Lynden, Sumas, and Everson — and the mayor pro tem of Nooksack — asked Inslee to reopen construction if they [meet certain conditions].

Meanwhile, statewide unemployment continues to grow. The Seattle Times reports,

On Thursday, the state reported receiving 143,241 initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending April 11. That represented a nearly 16% decline from the week prior week–the second consecutive weekly dip in jobless claims. But it was still roughly 22 times the number filed that same week a year ago, and it brings the total number of initial and recurring unemployment claims to 585,983, which is nearly twice the peak recorded during the Great Recession.

It also suggests the state’s current unemployment rate might be as high as 15%.

That record-breaking pattern was echoed across the nation, which saw 5.2 million new claims for the week ending April 11, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. That was down from the 6.6 million claims reported for the prior week, but it brought total jobless claims over the last month to more than 22 million, representing levels not seen since the Great Depression.