New claims for unemployment benefits drop, but remain at record levels — five times more than high point during the Great Recession

New claims for unemployment benefits dropped in the most recent statistics provided by the Washington State Employment Security Department.

The new figures, for the week of April 5 to April 11, show there were 143,241 initial claims — and 585,983 total claims — for unemployment benefits in the state, according to the Employment Security Department.

Officials said that while initial claims declined 16 percent 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 Kitsap County, the number of new claims totaled 3,905 in the week of April 5 to April 11.

The week before, there were 4,860 claims filed in Kitsap.

State employment officials also noted that the Employment Security Department paid out $125.9 million to 265,798 unemployed workers during the week of April 5 to April 11, a $45.6 million increase from the previous week.

“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,” said Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine.

“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,” she said.

“We are taking many steps to help get people their benefits,” LeVine added. “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.”

Since the start of COVID-19 outbreak job losses the week ending March 7, the department has paid out nearly $272 million in benefits to Washingtonians.

Officials noted that 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, the Employment Security Department expects to see an even larger surge of claims in the coming weeks.

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; and

• Accommodation and food services: 11,233 initial claims, down 6,784 initial claims from previous week.