Initial unemployment claims in Washington state and Kitsap County have hit a new COVID-19 pandemic low, though levels still remain elevated compared with 2019.
In Kitsap, there were just 343 initial unemployment claims during the week ending Oct. 24, the most recent week for which data is available, down from 417 the prior week. There were 175 initial claims in the week ending March 7, around the time the pandemic began.
Around the state, there were 14,198 initial regular unemployment claims, down 15.9 percent from the prior week, and a total of 475,441 claims for all unemployment benefit categories, down 3.2 percent from the previous week, according to the Employment Security Department. At the end of February, just before the pandemic began affecting businesses, there were 5,687 initial unemployment claims in Washington.
Initial claims are still 128 percent above the same week in 2019.
Among the state’s five biggest counties, Pierce recorded the largest decline in initial claims, 1,755 down from 2,200, a 20 percent decrease from the prior week. King and Clark counties saw a 19 percent drop, while initial claims declined by 10 percent in Snohomish County and 6 percent in Spokane County.
The ESD has paid out nearly $12 billion in benefits to residents of Washington since the pandemic began.
The industry sectors with the highest number of initial claims during the week ending Oct. 24 were construction (1,756 claims, down 9 percent); accommodation and food services (1,532 claims, down 11 percent); health care and social assistance (1,207 claims, down 9 percent); retail trade (1,135 claims, down 7 percent); and manufacturing (989 claims, down 27 percent).
The occupations with the most regular initial claims were construction and extraction (2,011 claims, down 8 percent); management (1,641 claims, down 13 percent); food preparation and serving (1,563 claims, down 10 percent); office and administrative support (1,174 claims, down 13 percent); and transportation and material moving (1,064 claims, down 25 percent).