Washington One of 12 States to See Jump in New Jobless Claims


New unemployment claims in Washington state rose slightly last week even as most other states saw declines in the number of people seeking jobless benefits.

Washingtonians filed 14,043 new, or "initial," claims last week, a 3.2% increase from the week before, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) reported Thursday.

The state was one of 12 to see increases in initial claims last week, according to the ESD. Nationally, new jobless claims fell 13.2% to 730,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

The number of new claims filed in Washington remains more than twice the level during the same week last year.

Among the sectors in the state seeing the sharpest increases in claims last week were construction, agriculture, and accommodation and food services.

The total number of weekly, or continuing, claims filed in Washington last week rose 3.5% from the prior week, to 442,742.

Washington's unemployment rate was 7.1% in December, the most recent month that figure is available. The January unemployment figure will be released March 3. The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7% in December.

Last week, the ESD paid benefits on 315,508 individual claims, a 1.1% increase from the prior week. Because individuals can have multiple claims, the number of claims is often slightly higher than the number of individual claimants.

Until recently, the ESD also reported the number of individuals receiving benefits each week.

Also missing from the agency's report Thursday: the number of claimants who had not been paid and were waiting for the ESD to resolve an issue with their claim; the average time required to resolve a problem on a claim; and the average time claimants typically wait to receive their first payment. That data has not been posted since December.

Agency officials have said that some claims data isn't available because newly extended federal benefits have changed how the ESD calculates who is receiving benefits and how long it takes to pay some claimants.

The agency has rolled out several new benefits authorized in the recent federal stimulus law, including an extra $300 a week that claimants began receiving in January. Those benefits end in mid-March unless Congress extends them.

Since March 2020, more than 1 million Washingtonians have been paid more than $15 billion in jobless benefits, with roughly two-thirds of the money coming from the federal government.