New unemployment claims in Washington fell last week even as the summer’s hiring surge appeared to be tapering.

Washingtonians filed 4,860 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits last week, a 6.6% decrease from the prior week, the state Employment Security Department reported Thursday. That’s around 500 fewer claims than the state received during the same week in 2019.

The decrease comes as claims nationally rose 6.4% to 332,000 amid concerns that the raging delta variant might be spurring new layoffs, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

In Washington, the job market appeared to be cooling slightly after two months of strong hiring.

In August, the state added 16,800 jobs, compared to 24,300 jobs in July and 25,600 in June, the Employment Security Department reported Wednesday. The slowdown in August came as Washington saw a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.

The number of overall claims filed in Washington — new claims plus ongoing claims that individuals must file each week to receive benefits — dropped 4.8% to 245,345 last week.


New claims for federal pandemic extended benefits, which kick in for workers who have exhausted state unemployment benefits, dropped 63% last week from the prior week.

Last week was the final week individuals could file claims for two federal pandemic programs, which formally expired Sept. 4.

Last week, the Employment Security Department paid out more than $151 million in benefits on 197,660 individual claims. Because individuals can have multiple claims, the number of those claims is often slightly higher than the number of individual claimants.

Since March 2020, nearly 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.

With the expiration of federal pandemic programs, however, total weekly benefit payments will fall substantially.