Initial claims flat in Kitsap, state begins paying LWA benefits

Initial unemployment claims remained flat through the end of the week of Sept. 19.

In Kitsap County, there were 512 initial claims, a number nearly level with last week’s total of 514.

The state as a whole had slightly worse fortunes, as a total of 19,574 initial claims were filed in Washington, which is up 6.4 percent from the prior week.

Numbers were mixed in the state’s five largest counties. Clark County saw a 31 percent spike in initial claims, while Pierce County and Spokane County were up 6 and 9 percent respectively. King County saw a small 1 percent decline.

However, claims for all unemployment benefit categories were down 4.6 percent. The Employment Security Department paid out $154.5 million for 337,390 individual claims in the week ending Sept. 19, which is a decrease of $2.8 million. Though far below the peak of the pandemic, initial claim application levels are still 271 percent higher than the same week in 2019.

Industry sectors with the higher number of initial claims were construction (2,886 claims, up 63 percent); accommodation and food services (2,216 claims, up 17 percent); health care and social assistance (1,642 claims, up 2 percent); retail trade (1,493 claims, down 3 percent); and educational services (1,460 claims, down 17 percent).

The ESD also began paying out money under the federal Lost Wages Assistance program this week. A total of $625,605,600 was paid to over 400,000 eligible applicants.

Lost Wages Assistance is a temporary program from a limited pot of money — it allows for the payment of $300 in benefits for those who were collecting unemployment for a six-week period between the weeks ending Aug. 1 through Sept. 5.

“These additional funds to help unemployed workers are welcome – providing much needed assistance to Washingtonians and their families during this crisis,” ESD commissioner Suzi LeVine said.

The ESD has paid out over $11 billion in unemployment benefits since March, when the coronavirus pandemic began. This figure includes the recent Lost Wages Assistance money and the $600 per week from the federal government under the CARES Act, which expired in July.

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