Total weekly unemployment claims highest in state history, officials say

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The total number of unemployment claims in Washington from April 5 to 11 was the highest in state history, according to the Employment Security Department.

Officials said during that time 585,983 total claims were made. Of that total, 143,241 were new, making it the third-highest weekly number of initial claims on record.

The 143,241 initial claims were down 16 percent from 170,000 the previous week.

ESD officials said they paid out $125.9 million to 265,798 unemployed workers, a $45.6 million increase from the previous week.

Nearly $272 million in benefits has been paid out to Washington state residents since the week ending March 7 – the start of many job losses related to the coronavirus.

“This past week, we provided more unemployment benefits in a single week than any other week in the history of Washington state’s program,” said Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “We are taking many steps to help get people their benefits.”

Levine said among those steps is the rollout of the new federal CARES Act provisions. The provisions will expand the eligibility for unemployment assistant, increase the weekly benefit amount by $600 and extend the time available for unemployment by 13 weeks.

ESD officials said their system will be updated Saturday to enable the expansion. Self-employed workers, independent contractors and other workers who are not traditionally eligible will now be able to apply for unemployment benefits.

“As a result, we expect to see an even larger surge of claims in the coming weeks. People should also know that they will be paid retroactive to their date of eligibility,” officials said.