New unemployment claims in Washington fell last week — and the state’s unemployment rate dipped — even as the nation as a whole saw a modest increase in the number of people seeking jobless benefits.  

Washingtonians filed 12,958 new, or “initial,” claims last week, a 7.7% decrease from the previous week, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) reported Thursday.

Nationally, new jobless claims rose 1.2% to 745,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

Washington’s unemployment rate fell to 6% in January, down from 7.1% in December, the ESD reported this week. The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.3% in January, down from 6.7% in December.

Still, the number of new claims filed in Washington was more than twice the level during the same week last year as the pandemic and related business restrictions continue to spur higher-than-normal layoffs.

Among the business sectors in the state that saw the largest number of new claims last week were construction, retail, accommodation and food services, and health care and social assistance. 

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The total number of weekly, or continuing, claims filed in Washington last week fell 0.4% from the prior week, to 440,927.

Last week, the ESD paid benefits on 315,399 individual claims, which was almost unchanged from the prior week. Because individuals can have multiple claims, the number of claims is often slightly higher than the number of individual claimants.

Since March 2020, more than 1 million Washingtonians have been paid more than $15.3 billion in jobless benefits, with roughly two-thirds of the money coming from the federal government.