Initial jobless claims fall again in late January

Initial unemployment claims in Washington and Kitsap County fell by 14 percent in the third week of January.

In the week of Jan. 17-23, there were 16,461 initial regular unemployment claims by state residents, according to the Employment Security Department, thanks to a drop in the state’s hardest-hit industries.

In Kitsap County, there were 406 new initial claims, down from 527 the prior week.

Although initial claims are still elevated — 107 percent higher than the same week in 2020 — a reduction in layoffs in the accommodation and food services and the retail trade sectors were the biggest factors in the decrease in jobless claims.

Initial claims for all unemployment categories fell as well and the state’s five largest counties — King, Snohomish, Clark, Pierce and Spokane — all recorded modest decreases.

For King, Snohomish and Pierce, their fortunes could turn around more quickly with the news that the Puget Sound and West regions in the state’s reopening plan move into Phase 2 this week, which has fewer restrictions on businesses. Thurston, Lewis, Pacific and Grays Harbor counties will also move to Phase 2.

The industry sectors with the highest number of inital claims were construction (2,290 claims, down 71); accommodation and food services (1,814 claims, down 437); retail trade (1,502 claims, down 318 claims); health care and social assistance (1,323 claims, down 261); manufacturing (1,058 claims, down 189 claims) and administrative, support, waste management and remediation services (1,052 claims, down 54).

During the week ending Jan. 23, $234 million was paid to 300,222 claims. Since the pandemic began in March, the ESD has paid out more than $14 billion in benefits to over one million people in Washington.