Employment Security Department

Washington state saw more than 145,000 initial weekly claims for jobless benefits, one of the biggest surges in new weekly claims since the coronavirus crisis began forcing layoffs in March, according to new federal data.

For the week ending May 16, workers in Washington filed 145,228 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a 31% increase over the prior week, according to figures released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor. The increase came as the nation as a whole saw the number of initial jobless claims fall 9.2%, to 2.4 million, according to the Labor Department.

The state Employment Security Department will report its own figure for initial weekly unemployment claims later Thursday. The state's figures often differ slightly from the Labor Department's, but tend to follow the same trends.

The new figures could push the state's total number of initial claims to nearly 1.2 million -- but they will also add to concerns that the state's unemployment system has been hit by identity thieves looking to siphon off some of the extra jobless benefits offered under the federal government's pandemic-relief measures.

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