Restrictions lead to unemployment spike in latest job numbers

Unsurprisingly, initial regular unemployment claims skyrocketed during the week of Nov. 15-21, the first week during which restrictions on businesses were reimplemented in Washington.

There were 30,274 initial claims that week, which is a 79.8% increase from the prior week. A total of 464,884 claims for all unemployment benefit categories were filed, which is up 7.1% from the prior week, according to the Employment Security Department.

The picture was similar in Kitsap County, as initial unemployment claims more than doubled from 432 to 868, though that still falls far below the number of claims submitted during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

The initial claims numbers included both new ones and those that were restarted by Washingtonians who had previously filed. Claim levels are now 263% higher than the same week in 2019.

The ESD paid out $135.5 million during the week ending Nov. 21 to 282,837 individual claims. Over $12.5 billion in benefits have now been paid to more than one million Washington residents since the beginning of the pandemic.

With dine-in restaurant service banned, the accommodation and food service industry sector was hit the hardest. Initial claims rose by greater than 400% from 1,887 the previous week to 8,824 — most of those claims came from the food preparation and serving occupations.

There were also increases in arts, entertainment and recreation (986 new claims for a total of 1,438, up from 452 the prior week); construction (3,088 claims, up from 2,456); manufacturing (1,837 claims, up from 1,270); and health care and social assistance (1,794 claims, up from 1,422).

Kitsap County had one of the lowest rates of unemployment in Western Washington in October. Kitsap’s unemployment rate was 5.5%, the third lowest on this side of the Cascades. Only King County (4.7%) and San Juan County (5%) were lower.