New unemployment claims in Washington fell last week, and the nation as a whole saw fewer people seeking jobless benefits and more companies with job openings.  

Washingtonians filed 11,760 new, or “initial,” claims last week, a 9.2% decrease from the previous week, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) reported Thursday.

Nationally, new jobless claims fell 5.6% to 712,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported. Federal data also showed a nearly 3% increase in the number of job openings in the U.S., to 6.9 million as of Jan. 31, which may indicate that employers are stepping up hiring.

Washington’s unemployment rate was 6% in January, the most recent month for which data is available, the ESD reported this week. That’s down from 7.1% in December. 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 nearly double the level during the same week last year as the pandemic and related business restrictions continue to spur layoffs.

Among the business sectors in the state that saw the largest number of new claims last week were construction, with 1,755; retail, 1,183; and food service and hotels, 1,137.

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While most job sectors in Washington saw fewer new claims — in construction, for example, new claims are down 37% over the last three weeks — there were modest increases in several sectors, including food service and arts, entertainment, and recreation.

The total number of weekly, or continuing, claims filed in Washington last week fell nearly 2% from the prior week, to 435,659.

Last week, the ESD paid benefits on 314,202 individual claims, which was down slightly 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 $15.5 billion in jobless benefits, with roughly two-thirds of the money coming from the federal government.