New Claims for Unemployment Drop, but Remain at Record Levels

During the week of April 5-11, there were 143,241 initial and 585,983 total claims for unemployment benefits, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD). While initial claims declined 16% from the previous week, it was still the third highest weekly number on record and five times more claims than the peak week during the Great Recession. Total weekly claims are now the highest on record.

In Mason County, the number of claims for unemployment were 793 last week (4/5/2020 to 4/11/2020), down from 1,187 the week before (3/29/2020 to 4/4/2020). There were 1,190 claims during the week of 3/22/2020 to 3/28/2020.

During the week of April 5-11, ESD also paid out $125.9 million to 265,798 unemployed workers, a $45.6 million increase from the previous week. Since the start of COVID-19 job losses the week ending March 7th, the department has paid out nearly $272 million in benefits to Washingtonians.

“This past week, we provided more unemployment benefits in a single week than any other week in the history of Washington state’s program. More than a quarter of a million of our friends and neighbors received a total of $125 million last week alone. And, since the crisis began, the total has now topped a quarter billion dollars. But we know that many more are awaiting that same relief.” said Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine.  “We are taking many steps to help get people their benefits. Among those steps is the rollout of the new federal CARES act provisions that dramatically expand eligibility for unemployment assistance, increase the weekly benefit amount by $600, and extend the time available for unemployment assistance by 13 weeks. This Saturday, April 18, the ESD system will be updated to enable that expansion so that individuals such as self-employed workers, independent contractors and other workers who are not traditionally eligible will now be able to apply for unemployment benefits. As a result, we expect to see an even larger surge of claims in the coming weeks. People should also know that they will be paid retroactive to their date of eligibility.”

Below is a six-week summary of statewide initial claims filed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis:

Weekly data breakdown

By industry

Industry sectors experiencing the highest number of initial claims during April 5-11 were:

  • Manufacturing: 33,337 initial claims, up 20,364 initial claims from previous week
  • Construction: 17,291 initial claims, down 7,103 initial claims from the previous week
  • Retail trade: 15,911 initial claims, down 4,597 initial claims from previous week
  • Health care and social assistance: 12,783 initial claims, down 6,679 initial claims from previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 11,233 initial claims, down 6,784 initial claims from previous week

Industry sectors experiencing the highest percentage increase of initial claims during April 5th-April 11th were:

  • Manufacturing: 33,337 initial claims, up 157 percent from the previous week.
  • Public administration: 1,840 initial claims, up 69 percent from the previous week

By county

King County, the most populous in the state, which had experienced a rise in initial claims during the prior three weeks saw initial claims decrease from 47,233 to 39,796 during the week of April 5th-April 11th, down 16 percent from the week before.

Other counties with the largest number of initial claims during the week were:

  • Snohomish County: Initial claims filed increased from 21,148 to 27,780 up 31 percent from the week before.
  • Pierce County: Initial claims filed decreased from 22,379 to 19,377 down 13 percent from the week before.
  • Spokane County: Initial claims filed decreased from 11,347 to 8,382 down 26 percent from the week before.
  • Clark County: Initial claims filed decreased from 9,378 to 5,591 down 40 percent from the week before.