Jobless claims continue at historically high pace

Initial claims for unemployment benefits stayed at their historical highs for the third week in a row, according to officials with the Washington State Employment Security Department.

New figures are available for the week of March 29-April 4, and state officials said more than 170,063 initial claims were filed during that timeframe.

In Kitsap County, claims for unemployment benefits during that week hit 4,860.

Though it marked a drop of 6.5 percent from the previous week, state employment officials noted it was still a 2,627 percent increase compared to 2019, and seven times more than the peak week during the 2008/2009 recession (which saw 26,075 weekly initial claims).

“It remains critical that people stay home and stay healthy, that is paramount. The increased utilization of unemployment insurance across the state demonstrates that more and more people are abiding by this order. Although the number of initial claims is down slightly from last week, we need to be cautious that this does not yet depict a trend,” said Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine.

“As our ESD team works round the clock to make it easier for Washingtonians to apply for unemployment benefits in addition to implementing the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program which will increase the number of workers who are eligible for unemployment benefits, we expect to see a new surge of claims in the coming weeks,” LeVine added.

In Kitsap County, the state received 4,860 initial claims during the week of March 29-April 4.

That’s down from 4,941 initial claims that were made during the prior week (March 22-March 28).

Three weeks ago, for the time period of March 15-March 21,

Officials with the department also said the state paid out $79.4 million to 182,315 individuals across Washington state during the week of March 29-April 4.

In total since the week ending March 16 — the first big week of claims related to COVID-19 job losses — the state Employment Security Department has paid out nearly $150 million in benefits to Washingtonians.

Officials said the industry sectors experiencing the highest number of initial claims during March 29-April 4 were construction (24,394 initial claims); retail trade (20,508 initial claims); health care and social assistance (19,462 initial claims); accommodation and food services (18,017 initial claims) and manufacturing (12,973 initial claims).