New jobless claims continued to fall last week in Washington state, even as employers struggled to add new jobs.
Washingtonians filed 10,085 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits last week, a 13.6% decrease from the prior week, the state Employment Security Department reported Thursday.
Washington’s decline in claims was the second consecutive drop following a two-week surge in early May that was driven by fraudulent unemployment claims. Last week’s claims numbers were in line with a gradual decline this year.
Yet the state’s weekly claims remain high by historical standards — and are roughly on par with numbers seen during the Great Recession.
Hiring also appeared to be slowing. The latest jobs report, published by the ESD last week, showed that Washington added just 11,200 jobs in April, down from 28,100 in March and 29,600 in February.
Apri’s unemployment rate in Washington was unchanged from March at 5.4%. Nationally, it ticked up to 6.1% from 6% in March.
Jacob Vigdor, an economist at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy, warned against reading too much into April’s lower jobs numbers.
April’s job growth, though down from March, was still around 50% higher than would be expected in a “normal,” or pre-pandemic, April, Vigdor said. “That’s still pretty robust job growth,” he said.
The state’s slower job growth could also reflect difficulties some employers are having in finding enough workers. “To the extent [job] growth is decelerating, it’s as likely to reflect a lack of workers as a lack of job openings,” Vigdor said.
In Washington, the number of overall claims — new claims plus ongoing claims that claimants must file each week to receive benefits — dropped 8.4% to 381,640 last week.
New claims for federal pandemic extended benefits — for workers who have exhausted state unemployment benefits — fell 13.9% last week compared with the prior week.
Last week, the ESD paid benefits on 290,166 individual claims, down nearly 1% 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 $18.6 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.