The number of people seeking unemployment benefits in Washington set a new record last week, with tens of thousands more people in the state filing new claims as non-essential businesses remain closed due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The latest numbers released by the state Employment Security Department showed that 181,975 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed with the state during the week of March 22-28, a 41 percent increase over the previous week's earlier record of 128,962 new claims.
The job losses come as the state is under a stay-at-home order that has closed non-essential businesses.
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Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine said the increase in claims suggests that people and businesses are following Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, and that “this virus is having a profoundly negative impact on our economic health, and that Washington businesses and workers are hurting like never before.”
Snohomish County saw the highest increase in initial claims with 13,692 to 21,176, an increase of 55 percent from the previous week. King County saw a 20 percent increase from the previous week with 44,613 claims. Claims in Pierce County increased from 14,730 to 22,145, a jump of 50 percent.
LeVine said the department recently updated its website to assist residents applying for unemployment benefits, and also added hundreds of staff members to its unemployment insurance team. Call center hours have also been expanded to include Saturdays. Sundays are being used to return calls, LeVine said.