Washington sees record unemployment rate of 15.4% in April

Washington sees record unemployment rate of 15.4% in April
In this May 6, 2020 photo, a person sits near a boarded up and closed Arc'teryx outdoor clothing store in downtown Seattle. Nearly all retail stores and restaurants in the area are currently closed or operating under reduced levels of service due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and state-wide stay-at-home orders, which has led to thousands of workers losing their jobs or being furloughed. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S. Warren)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state's unemployment rate was a record 15.4%, and the state's economy lost 527,000 jobs last month.

It's the highest jobless rate the state has seen since it started keeping comparable records in the 1970s.

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April's rate is a significant jump from March's 5.1%, though officials had warned April's numbers would more truly reflect the widespread closing of restaurants and other businesses that started in mid-March.

February's unemployment rate was 3.8%. The previous record was 12.2% in November 1982.

All 13 industry sectors in the state saw losses last month, with the largest drops seen in leisure and hospitality, construction, education and health services, and retail trade.

“While these numbers are dramatic, it is in alignment with what we expected as the state has taken the public health crisis seriously and is abiding by the 'Stay home, stay healthy' order,” Washington State Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said.

LeVine said the state projects the job losses will continue through May with a shift coinciding with the phased reopening of the economy.

ESD data through May 9 showed 1,775,629 initial claims for unemployment in Washington have been made since the beginning of the pandemic. Updated numbers are expected to be released Thursday.