New unemployment claims in Washington rose slightly last week amid broader concerns that rising COVID case counts are slowing the national recovery.

Washingtonians filed 4,914 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits last week, a 1.3% increase from the prior week, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) reported Thursday.

The increase comes as claims nationally rose 3.1% to 362,000 amid continued concerns that the raging delta variant is affecting employers’ hiring plans, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

Even with the increase in claims in Washington, the state is still seeing fewer new claims than it did during the same week in pre-pandemic 2019.

The number of overall claims filed in Washington — new claims plus ongoing claims that individuals must file each week to receive benefits — dropped 14.1% to 97,068 last week.

Much of that drop reflects the decrease in claims for federal pandemic benefits, which formally expired Sept. 4 but which can still be filed for in some cases. ESD received 6,164 pandemic claims last week, down from 18,016 the prior week.


ESD paid out more $40 million in benefits on 42,024 individual claims last week. (Because individuals can have multiple claims, the number of those claims is often slightly higher than the number of individual claimants.)

That’s down from a payout of $52 million on 53,687 claims in the prior week and $151 million on 180,372 claims the week before that.

Since March 2020, more than 1.2 million Washingtonians have received more than $21.3 billion in jobless benefits, with about three-quarters of the money coming from the federal government.

By comparison, in each of the previous 10 years, the Employment Security Department’s annual payout averaged just more than $1 billion, according to the department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.