New unemployment claims in Washington dropped last week and remain well below their pre-pandemic levels, even as the state’s latest jobs report showed that hiring appears to be slowing.

Washingtonians filed 5,181 new, or “initial,” claims for jobless benefits last week, down 13.6% from the prior week, according to data posted Thursday by the state Employment Security Department. 

New claims in Washington fell even more sharply than for the nation as a whole: Overall U.S. claims fell by less than half a percent, to 268,000 last week, the fewest since the pandemic started last year, the Labor Department reported Thursday.  

The number of new claims filed last week in Washington is around 31% lower than during the same week in 2019, before the pandemic. Although claims typically rise in autumn with seasonal layoffs, the lower-than-normal claims this year could also reflect improving conditions as Washington’s economy recovers from the pandemic, economists have said. 

The total number of Washingtonians receiving weekly jobless benefits also fell last week, to 40,593, down 5.3% from the prior week.

But the good news on declining claims and layoffs was tempered by somber data on hiring.

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Employers in Washington added just 6,300 jobs last month, according to the October employment report, which the ESD released Wednesday. The state’s modest showing contrasted with the national job market, which saw hiring in October surge by 531,000 jobs, or 70% over September’s revised number.

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.

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