OLYMPIA – During the week of March 15-21, 133,464 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed with the Employment Security Department (ESD) which was an increase of 119,310 new claims over the previous week.
Tremendous increase in new unemployment claims due to COVID-19 related layoffs
“This data shows the enormity of the situation unfolding in our state,” said Employment Security Department Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “The velocity and volume of the impact of COVID-19 has created a crisis that is unprecedented in the history of the program – going back to the 1930s when it was established. To address this, I have an amazing team working hard on three very clear priorities: get benefits out more quickly to those who are eligible, expand eligibility for those who can utilize this benefit, and help employers find staff for essential jobs. The entire department is doing everything we can to meet the needs of this situation and our fellow Washingtonians.”
Weekly data breakdown
Industry sectors experiencing the highest percentage of new claims during March 15-21 were:
- Accommodation and food services: 41,309 new claims, up 1,033 percent from the previous week
- Health care and social assistance: 18,902 new claims, up 2,103 percent from the previous week
- Other services: 9,626 new claims, up 2,871 percent from the previous week
- Retail trade: 8,700 new claims, up 1,189 percent from the previous week
- Manufacturing: 5,276 new claims, up 434 percent from the previous week
Demonstrating the COVID-19 wave washing across the state, Spokane County experienced the highest increase, 455 to 8,766 up 1,826 percent from the week before. King County, the most populous in the state and one that had already started to see a precipitous rise in claims the prior week, saw new claims increase from 5,834 to 37,296 during the week of March 15-21, up 539 percent from the week before.
All other counties experienced a spike in new claims, with some of the highest during the same period in:
- Pierce County: New claims filed increased from 1,559 to 14,730 up 845 percent from the week before.
- Snohomish County: New claims filed increased from 1,386 to 13,692 up 888 percent from the week before.
For complete information of weekly new claims by industry sector and county for the year to date, check the weekly unemployment initial claims charts compiled by ESD’s Labor Market & Economic Analysis division. For more information about specific counties, contact one of ESD’s regional local economists.
NOTE: ESD will send out the next weekly new claims press release on Thursday, April 2 at 10:00a.m. Pacific Time.
“New claims” include individuals who filed first-time claims as well as additional claims filed by individuals as a result of a new unemployment event. New claims include claims that are still being reviewed for eligibility. Counts for new claims are not indicative of the number of claims that will result in monetary compensation. Counts are estimated due to the unprecedented volume of claims.
Per U.S. Department of Labor regulations, weekly unemployment claims data is embargoed and not available for release until the Thursday following the claim week.
Employment Security is a proud partner in the statewide WorkSource system, which provides employment and training assistance to job seekers and businesses. While WorkSource centers are closed for in-person services during the COVID-19 outbreak, customers can still get help from WorkSource staff by phone and through the Live Chat feature on WorkSourceWA.com. The website provides access to thousands of Washington jobs and other employment resources. Chat agents cannot answer unemployment benefit questions.