Washington state saw an 843% week-over-week increase in claims for unemployment benefits last week as businesses started to temporarily close under state-mandated orders to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor and the state Employment Security Department showed that that 133,464 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed with the state during the week of March 15-21, an increase of 119,310 new claims over the previous week.
Nationally, nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — almost five times the previous record set in 1982.
Rebekah Simmons recently lost her job in Chehalis.
"It was March 14th, I was laid off from work. I was a waitress at Kelley's Country Café."
Simmons tried to sign up for unemployment benefits, but had trouble getting through in the first place, and trouble getting her claim approved, too.
New unemployment claims totaled about 14,000 before the shutdown. Those numbers jumped a staggering 843% in just one week.
In just the last two weeks, the state's unemployment website had half as many active users as all of 2019.