New unemployment claims in Washington dropped last week amid continued progress in the state’s COVID-19 measures and a broader recovery in the national job market.

Washingtonians filed 4,814 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits last week, a 2% decline from the prior week, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) reported Thursday.

Washington’s falling claims numbers come as claims nationally fell 10.4% to 326,000, from last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

New claims in Washington are well below the levels the state saw 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 10.8% to 86,615 last week.

That drop partly 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 paid out more than $35 million in benefits on 35,580 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 $40 million on 42,024 claims in the prior week.

Since March 2020, more than 1.2 million Washingtonians have received more than $21.4 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.

Coverage of the pandemic’s economic impacts is partially underwritten by Microsoft Philanthropies. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all its coverage.