‘COVID-19 Has Created a Crisis:’ Unemployment Claims Skyrocket in Thursday Report

A new report released Thursday by the Washington State Employment Security Department shows the state is experiencing a dramatic increase in unemployment insurance claims as the fallout over the spread of COVID-19 unfolds.

ESD recorded 133,464 new claims statewide during the week of March 15 through March 21, according to a press release, which amounts to an 843-percent increase over the week prior.

That week coincided with Gov. Jay Inslee’s initial two-week closures of restaurants, bars and other businesses, which was announced on March 16 and put into place the next day.

Of the 133,464 new claims, more than 41,000 — nearly a third — were from accomodation and food services industries.

“This data shows the enormity of the situation unfolding our state,” ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine said in a statement. “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.”

LeVine says ESD will continue to focus on three priorities; getting benefits to those who are eligible, expanding eligibility for those who need them, and helping 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,” she continued.

Locally, Lewis County saw a stark increase in claims. Over the week ending on March 21, the county saw 1,094 new claims, up 1,089 percent from the week prior.

Thurston County saw 4,708 new claims for an increase of 1,241 percent.

The health care and social assistance industry, as well as services industries labeled as ‘other,’ saw the greatest percentage increases statewide. Health care and social assistance saw a 2,103-percent increase and 18,902 new claims, while other services saw a 2,871-percent increase and 9,626 new claims.

For more information from the Employment Security Department, or to file a claim for unemployment insurance, visit www.esd.wa.gov.

The best way to prevent coronavirus-related illness is to avoid being exposed, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says. The following are preventive measures the public can take, per CDC:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

• Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask. CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

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