Bleak jobs news: Many industry sectors see hike in unemployment

Initial unemployment claims continued to rise as the calendar flipped to 2021 as many industry sectors saw some growth in unemployment.

During the week spanning Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, there were a total of 29,651 initial regular unemployment claims, which was a 54.5 percent increase over the prior week. Claims for all unemployment benefit categories also rose 12.1 percent from the prior week, according to the Employment Security Department.

Unlike last week, where increases were driven mainly by season layoffs in construction and accomodation and food services, the surge in new and restarted claims came from employees across every industry sector. Some new initial claims, especially in the retail trade industry, are at least partly associated with post-holiday layoffs.

The industry sectors with the higher number of initial claims during the week ending Jan. 2 were construction (4,941 claims, up 48 percent); accommodation and food services (3,096 claims, up 48 percent); retail trade (2,230 claims, up 53 percent); health care and social assistance (2,208 claims, up 40 percent); and manufacturing (2,091 claims, up 51 percent).

The most affected occupations were construction and extraction (5,117 claims, up 48 percent); food preparation and serving (3,216 claims, up 49 percent); management (3,057 claims, 74 percent); transportation and material moving (2,726 claims, up 61 percent); office and administrative support (2,076 claims, up 56 percent).

Initial claims are now 201 percent above the same week in 2019.

Like many of the state’s counties, Kitsap saw a large increase in initial claims, going from 465 the week prior to 741. King County saw an increase of 58 percent, while some of the state’s other large counties saw large spikes as well. Pierce County had a 59 percent increase, Snohomish County went up 62 percent, Spokane County was up 64 percent and Yakima County went up 46 percent.

Over $182.7 million was paid to 316,175 individual claims in the week ending Jan. 2.

The ESD has now paid out more than $13.4 billion in unemployment benefits to Washington residents since the pandemic began. In addition, the state has paid $49.9 million in Pandemic Relief Payment — a one-time payment of $550 sent to some recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.

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