The ranks of the unemployed continue to shrink in Washington as the state economy recovers, but the number of people collecting unemployment benefits still rivals the level during the Great Recession.
Washingtonians filed 10,507 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits last week, a 9.6% decrease from the prior week, the state Employment Security Department reported Thursday.
The number of new claims in Washington, though barely a tenth of the weekly volume received by the ESD a year ago, remains high by historical standards.
The state’s four-week moving average for new claims last week was 13,158, which is more than double the level recorded just before the pandemic — and is roughly similar to levels during the Great Recession, according to the ESD.
In Washington, the number of overall claims — new claims plus ongoing claims that claimants must file each week to receive benefits — dropped to 404,257 last week after hovering around 420,000 since mid-March.
New claims for federal pandemic unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted state benefits fell 3.3% last week compared to the prior week.
Last week, the ESD paid benefits on 309,168 individual claims, up 4.6% from the prior week. Because individuals can have multiple claims, the number of those claims is often slightly higher than the number of individual claimants.
Since March 2020, more than 1 million Washingtonians have received more than $17.5 billion in jobless benefits, with about two-thirds of the money coming from the federal government.
By comparison, in each of the previous 10 years, the ESD’s annual payout averaged just over $1 billion, the ESD said.