Washington state sees decline in new, total weekly jobless claims

Washington state continues to see a decrease in both new and total weekly claims for unemployment benefits.

The number of new claims for unemployment benefits in Washington last week — 18,389 — was down 16.2% from the previous week.

More than 568,000 claims for benefits — with some of that number reflecting people who filed multiple claims — were filed for the week of Aug. 16-22, down 4.8% from the previous week. More than $182 million was paid for 357,077 individual claims last week, a decrease of $15.4 million and 5,760 fewer people from the prior week.

Since business closures related to the coronavirus pandemic began in March, the state has paid nearly $10 billion in benefits, including federal money that, until last month, was providing the unemployed with an additional $600 a week on top of the state’s weekly maximum benefit. For those starting claims after July 1, the state’s maximum weekly benefit amount increased to $844 from $790, and the minimum increased to $201 from $188.

That $600 weekly bonus expired at the end of July, but earlier this week, Washington was approved for a federal grant that will allow for an additional $300 in unemployment benefits on top of the state’s regular unemployment benefit for a limited period of time. The program came about through an executive order by President Donald Trump.

Payments will be retroactive to Aug. 1. Not everyone who has filed a claim will be eligible for the extra funding, and ESD has said that the benefit is currently time-limited to those filing claims over a three-week period, between July 26 and Aug. 15.

In order to qualify for the weekly bonus, people must certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19.