The Employment Security Departments updates the minimum and maximum weekly benefit every year.
Washington’s minimum weekly unemployment benefit increased by $9 to $178 for new claims opened on or after July 1, while the maximum weekly benefit increased by $36 to $749, according to the state’s Employment Security Department.
Unemployment benefits are calculated using the state’s average annual wage, which grew by 5 percent in 2017 to $61,887. The ESD says the average weekly wage rose from $1,133 in 2016 to $1,190 in 2017. This data includes only those wages that are covered by unemployment insurance.
About 20 percent of unemployment insurance claims are currently paid the maximum benefit amount, and 10 percent receive the minimum, according to the ESD. Unemployment benefits are calculated based on earnings. To calculate an individual benefit amount, add the total wages for the two highest quarters in the past year (based on a “base year,” or the first four of the last five calendar quarters), divide the total by two and then multiply by 0.0385. This is the weekly benefit amount, up to the maximum.
The average annual wage is also used in computing employers’ unemployment taxes. Beginning in 2019, employers will pay unemployment taxes on the first $49,800 paid to each employee — up from $47,300 in 2018, according to the ESD.