State to change unemployment rules as some businesses face worker shortage

SEATTLE — As the pandemic wanes, more people are shopping in stores so QFC and Fred Meyer stores have hundreds of job openings. Today each store held a job fair where people could be hired on the spot.

“I came in, they asked if I was looking for a job and turns out I am,” said 15 year old Brandon Baydovskiy.

He got hired on the spot for a job that will start at about 13 dollars an hour, even part-time workers get medical benefits.

“Pay is great, benefits are wonderful, and from what I saw hours are very flexible as well.”

Sam Pettersson, 19, was hired on the spot too and is now working two jobs. But he did take time off from his job at a restaurant when the pandemic hit hard.

“When it hit I stopped working there for a little bit. Stayed at home. My parents were older, they were more prone to getting COVID.”

Many say the enhanced unemployment benefits are figuring into the equation for some who have decided not to seek work.

But at his Seattle restaurant, Eric Rivera is not buying it: “I think a lot of it comes from talking points from people that are detached from the mindset of actual workers and what they need first.”

For him that means higher pay — he starts at 20 dollars an hour — and assuring workers that the work place will be truly COVID-safe.

And with the unemployment rate already down to six percent — state labor economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman says the labor market will continue to be tight.

“Employers are faced with the same types of challenges that they had before going into this recession from the hiring standpoint.”

Usually people receiving unemployment benefits are required to look for work but that requirement was suspended during the depths of the pandemic. Now the state’s Employment Security Department says recipients will be required to look for work beginning July 1. That’s the day after Washington state will fully reopen.

The change comes as the the department reported the third straight weekly decline in jobless claims.

Last week, Washingtonians filed 8,868 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits, a 12.1% decrease from the prior week, the department reported Thursday.