This graph shows the rise of initial claims for unemployment benefits in Washington state since early March. (Image courtesy of the Washington State Employment Security Department)

This graph shows the rise of initial claims for unemployment benefits in Washington state since early March. (Image courtesy of the Washington State Employment Security Department)

Number of new unemployment benefit claims in Washington: ‘Truly staggering’

  • Monday, May 4, 2020 10:07am
  • News

More than 1.4 million new claims for unemployment benefits have been filed in Washington state, according to the latest statistics from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

ESD officials announced late last week that 1,455,908 total claims for unemployment benefits were filed for the week of April 19 to April 25.

In Kitsap County, the number of new jobless claims totaled 4,266 for the week of April 19 to April 25, an increase of 1,888 new claims over the previous week’s total of 2,378.

Initial claims for regular unemployment benefits increased by 67 percent statewide, officials said, and total initial claims increased by 453.3 percent over the previous week.

The rise marks an increase of almost 10,000 percent over the same week last year.

The huge uptick is due to the first week of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims and applications for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is for self-employed workers and independent contractors, and state officials said 190,948 PUA claims were filed in the initial week.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation initial claims totaled 168,165 in Washington.

New claims for regular unemployment insurance totaled 137,605 for the week of April 19-April 25, and continued ongoing weekly claims from Washingtonians who have lost their jobs totaled 959,190.

Officials said that since the week ending March 7 — when COVID-19 job losses began — 787,533 people individuals have filed for unemployment insurance and the state has paid out nearly $1.5 billion in benefits to Washingtonians.

“The tsunami of claims we have been preparing for is reflected in this week’s data, as it shows the hundreds of thousands of workers applying for expanded benefits under the federal CARES Act since we updated our system to accept those applications on April 18,” said Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine.

The increase in unemployment claims in unprecedented.

“This is, by far, the largest week of unemployment benefits delivered in our state’s history,” Levine said. “We have received more initial claims in the past seven weeks than the previous three and a half years combined — it is a truly staggering amount of people affected by this crisis. I am so sorry that we haven’t been able to provide everyone with relief when they need it and we are working night and day to make sure that we do.

“We want to remind people; the money won’t run out and you won’t miss out. You will be paid all the benefits for which you are eligible.”

Claims from people working in the healthcare and social assistance industry filed the highest number of new claims during the week of April 19-April 25, with 11,061 initial claims, up from 1,927 the previous week.

The next most-impacted industry was retail trade, where jobless workers filed 10,397 claims during April 19 through April 25. That was an increase of 912 claims from previous week.

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