Jobless Washington state

Washingtonians filed 13,607 new jobless claims last week, a 13% drop from the week before. Shown is the headquarters for the state’s Employment Security Department in Olympia.

New unemployment claims in Washington state fell for the sixth consecutive week even as the nation as a whole saw a modest uptick in the number of people seeking jobless benefits.  

Washingtonians filed 13,607 new, or “initial,” claims last week, a 13% decrease from the week before, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) reported Thursday. Nationally, new jobless claims rose 1.5% to 861,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

Still, the number of new claims filed in Washington remains more than twice the level during the same week last year.

The total number of weekly, or continuing, claims filed last week fell 7.3% from the prior week to 447,412.

The state’s unemployment rate was 7.1% in December, the most recent month that figure is available. The January unemployment figure will be released March 3. The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7% in December.

Last week, the ESD paid benefits on 312,121 individual claims, a nearly 2% decrease from the prior week. Because individuals can have multiple claims, the number of claims is often slightly higher than the number of individual claimants.

Until recently, the ESD also reported the number of individuals receiving benefits each week.

Also missing from the agency’s report Thursday: the number of claimants who had not been paid and were waiting for the ESD to resolve an issue with their claim; the average time required to resolve a problem on a claim; and the average time claimants typically wait to receive their first payment. That data has not been posted since December.

Agency officials have said that some claims data isn’t available because newly extended federal benefits have changed how the ESD calculates who is receiving benefits and how long it takes to pay some claimants. 

The agency has rolled out several new benefits authorized in the recent federal stimulus law, including an extra $300 a week that claimants began receiving in January. Those benefits end in mid-March unless Congress extends them.

Since March 2020, more than 1 million Washingtonians have been paid more than $14.8 billion in jobless benefits, with roughly two-thirds of the money coming from the federal government.

Margaux Maxwell reports for the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. She can be reached at mmaxwell@yakimaherald.com