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Washington unemployment filings dip, but still at record levels

A stack of unemployment forms. (Getty Images)

Weekly unemployment claims in Washington decreased between April 26 and May 2, but still “remain at record levels,” according to the state Employment Security Department.

Huge surge in Washington unemployment claims after benefits expanded

According to the ESD, 100,762 initial regular unemployment claims were filed for the week ending on May 2, down from 137,505 the week before.

Initial claims for federal unemployment were also down significantly compared to the previous week, likely due to that being the first week such benefits were available in Washington.

First-time claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — for those who don’t normally qualify such as independent contractors — dropped to 59,234, down from 190,948 the prior week. There were 40,267 initial Emergency Pandemic Unemployment Compensation claims — an extra 13 weeks of benefits, down from 168,165 the previous week.

There were just under 886,000 ongoing claims last week, down from about 959,000. And total claims came in at 1,086,031, down from just under 1,456,000 the prior week.

ESD paid out $639 million in benefits, down from nearly a billion dollars a week earlier. All of that is trending in the right direction, but the department says it is still at record levels, and it expects it to remain that way, and see more increases until workers return during Phases 3 and 4 of the governor’s reopening plan.

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“Since the COVID-19 crisis began in early March, Employment Security has sent $2.14 billion into the pockets of more than half a million Washingtonians,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “This makes an enormous difference to those individuals and their families, and we are humbled to be able to provide these services in such a critical time. That said, there are approximately 57,000 who are waiting because there are issues with their claims we are working to resolve. Getting those Washingtonians their benefits is our agency’s top priority.”

Now it has set a new date to reach their goal of getting 100% of claims processed.

“We are doubling down on activities already underway to reach our goal of getting all of those claims in adjudication resolved or paid by June 15. We will be posting more information and details on our progress on our website in the coming days,” Levine said.

Industry sectors experiencing the highest number of initial claims during April 26-May 2 were:

  • Healthcare and social assistance: 10,272 initial claims, down 789 initial claims (7 percent) from the previous week
  • Retail trade: 8,489 initial claims, down 1,908 initial claims (19 percent) from previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 8,435 initial claims, down 1,614 initial claims (16 percent) from previous week
  • Manufacturing: 5,409 initial claims, down 636 initial claims (4 percent) from the previous week
  • Construction: 4,849 initial claims, down 1,198 initial claims (20 percent) from the previous week
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