More than a million workers have now filed for unemployment benefits, other assistance

More than a million workers in Washington have now filed for unemployment benefits or other related assistance since early March, a grim milestone as the state continues to grapple with the unprecedented economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, our online news partner The Seattle Times reports.

For the week ending May 9, the Employment Security Department (ESD) received 109,425 initial weekly claims for unemployment insurance — an 8.6% increase from the previous week and a clear reminder that the job market will likely lag behind the state’s efforts to emerge from the coronavirus shutdown.

Washington was among the few states reporting an increase in jobless claims, The Times said. The nation as a whole saw 2.98 million initial unemployment claims last week, down 6.1% from the prior week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

In a news release, ESD said it paid out over $767 million (an increase of almost $130 million from the previous week) for 538,635 individual claims (an increase of 34,496 from the previous week).

In Snohomish County, initial claims filed increased from 10,864 to 11,677 up 7% from the week before.

Unemployment claim type Week of 

May 3-9

Week of

April 26-May 2

Week of

April 19-25

Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) initial claims 109,425 100,762 137,605
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims 55,911 59,234 190,948
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims 47,626 40,267 168,165
Continued/ongoing weekly claims 1,088,602 885,768 959,190
Total claims 1,301,564 1,086,031 1,455,908

Since the week ending March 7 when COVID-19 job losses began:

  • A total of 1,775,629 initial claims have been filed during the pandemic (1,135,046 regular unemployment insurance, 343,665 PUA and 296,918 PEUC)
  • A total of 1,027,292 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment benefits
  • ESD has paid out nearly $2.9 billion in benefits to Washingtonians
  • 751,149 individuals who have filed an initial claim have been paid

“We at ESD are incredibly proud to have paid out nearly $2.9 billion in benefits to Washingtonians over the past 10 weeks – money that is vital to feeding people’s families, paying bills and paying rent, said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine. However, DeVine acknowledged that others are still waiting to receive benefits. To address this, on Monday the department launched an initiative called Operation 100%.

“This effort is focused on approximately 50,000 individuals who have issues on their claims that need to be resolved by one of our staff,” she said.

Below is a 10-week summary of statewide initial claims filed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis:

10 week initial regular claims summary table May 3-9Initial regular claims 10 week summary line chart May 3-9Statewide Total Claims line chart May 3-9

Weekly data breakdown

By industry
Industry sectors experiencing the highest number of initial claims during May 3-9 were:

  • Health care and social assistance: 13,340 initial claims, up 3,068 initial claims (30%) from the previous week
  • Educational services: 10,165 initial claims, up 5,905 initial claims (139%) from previous week
  • Retail trade: 8,965 initial claims, up 476 initial claims (6%) from previous week
  • Manufacturing: 7,894 initial claims, up 2,485 initial claims (46%) from the previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 6,355 initial claims, down 2,080 initial claims (25%) from the previous week


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