Seasonal layoffs drive slight increase in initial unemployment claims

Initial unemployment claims rose slightly statewide during the final week of October, driven primarily by upticks in claims in construction, manufacturing and agriculture due to seasonal layoffs.

There were 14,681 initial claims in Washington in the week ending Oct. 31, up 3.4 percent from the prior week . A total of 465,563 claims were filed for all unemployment categories, down 2.1 percent from the previous week, according to the Employment Security Department.

Accordingly, among the state’s five largest counties, only Spokane County saw an increase in initial claims, from 908 to 1,025, which is 13 percent more than the prior week. King and Clark counties both saw 5 percent decreases, while Snohomish County fell 3 percent and Pierce County 2 percent.

Initial claims in Kitsap County took another small dip, down to 326 from the 343 filed the prior week. Initial claim levels remain high — during the equivalent week in 2019 there were 118 initial claims filed in Kitsap. Statewide, initial claims levels are 113 percent higher than last year.

The state paid out $143 million in individual claims, surpassing the $12 billion mark for the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far.

The industries with the highest number of initial claims for the week ending Oct. 31 were: construction (1,931 claims, up 10 percent); accommodation and food services (1,546 claims, up 1 percent); health care and social assistance (1,174 claims, down 3 percent); manufacturing (1,072 claims, up 8 percent); and retail trade (1,054 claims, down 7 percent).

Occupations with the largest number of initial claims include: construction and extraction (2,115 claims, up 5 percent); management (1,620 claims, down 1 percent); food preparation and serving (1,571 claims, up 1 percent); office and administrative support (1,176 claims, up .2 percent); and transportation and material moving (1,143 claims, up 7 percent).