New unemployment claims in Washington state fell last week, but the number of people seeking jobless benefits remains well above historic norms as the pandemic continues to fuel layoffs.

Washingtonians filed 27,147 new, or “initial,” claims last week, an 8.4% decrease from the week before, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) reported Thursday.

That contrasts with the nation as a whole, which saw 965,000 initial claims last week, a 23.8% increase over the week before, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Washington’s decline in new claims was driven, in part, by large drops in claims from workers laid off from jobs in construction and agriculture, two sectors that had seen a surge in seasonal layoffs a week earlier, the ESD reported.

The state also saw a decline in the number of “continuing,” or ongoing, claims for benefits that claimants file each week they remain jobless. Last week, Washingtonians filed 473,614 continuing claims, down 1.2% from a week earlier, the ESD reported.

For the second week in a row, the ESD did not post some claims data, including the total number of people receiving benefits in Washington. The last time the ESD posted that data — for the week ending Dec. 26 — the agency was paying benefits to 281,328 people.


Also missing this week from the ESD: the number of individuals who had filed claims but 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.

Last week, ESD spokesperson Nick Demerice said the agency hadn’t released that data because recently extended federal benefits had changed the way the ESD calculates who is receiving benefits and how long it takes to pay some claimants. “We will update that when it becomes clear,” Demerice said last week.

As of Dec. 26, 39,613 claimants were not receiving benefits and were waiting for the ESD to resolve an issue with their claim.

The agency is rolling out several new benefits authorized in the recent federal stimulus law, including an extra $300 a week that all claimants will begin receiving starting sometime after Jan. 15.