Unemployment claims in Washington continue to soar. Image courtesy Employment Security Department

Unemployment claims in Washington continue to soar. Image courtesy Employment Security Department

Unemployment claims continue to climb

For the week of March 22-28, claims have reached more than 181,000.

The state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) has reported that unemployment claims have drastically increased.

In an April 2 press release, the ESD said claims for benefits “soared to a record 181,975 for the week of March 22-28,” a 3,513% increase over the last year.

That is also a 41% increase over the previous week, when the department reported nearly 129,000 claims had come their way.

“These numbers suggest two contrasting points, 1) that more and more businesses and individuals are abiding by the ‘Stay home, stay healthy’ order – which is critical for the health of our fellow Washingtonians, and 2) this virus is having a profoundly negative impact on our economic health, and that Washington businesses and workers are hurting like never before,” Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine said in the release. “We are humbled here at ESD to help mitigate that economic impact by providing workers and businesses with some amount of relief, especially since we all play a key role in battling this virus.”

LeVine added that more than $67 million in unemployment benefits had been provided to Washingtonians since March 15.

“This weekly amount will only grow as we expect weekly new claims to rise even further,” she added.

All counties have experienced a spike in unemployment claims, with Snohomish County rising to the top between March 22-28, rising from 13,692 claims to 21,176, a 55% increase.

Behind it was Pierce County, which saw claims numbers jump 50% to a total of 22,145 during the same time period, and Spokane County 38% for a total of 12,102.

King County, which initially saw the highest claims increases when the COVID-19 outbreak started, has since slowed, increasing only 20% for a total of 44,613.

To handle the increased numbers, LeVine said ESD has improved its website, esd.wa.gov, and increased staff to expand its call center, which includes adding Saturday call center hours.


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