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On unemployment in Washington? You'll have to prove you're looking for a job

The Washington Employment Security Department is bringing back the active job search requirement as part of the unemployment benefits application process.

SEATTLE — Those seeking unemployment benefits in Washington will need to prove they're searching for a job starting early July.

The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) requirement goes back into effect for people applying for unemployment benefits for the week of July 11. Residents will need to begin searching and be able to provide documentation of their job search activities the week prior, which begins on July 4.

Upon the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of countless jobs, Gov. Jay Inslee temporarily suspended the active job search requirement for those applying for unemployment and had extended the suspension since, according to the ESD.

But with the economy bouncing back and Washington now fully open for business, the requirement is coming back too.

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For those relying on unemployment, that means they must look for work and be able to document and prove their job search at least three times per week to remain eligible for state unemployment benefits, according to the ESD.

Approved job search activity includes attending job fairs, including virtual ones, creating or updating a LinkedIn page, or registering for a job recruitment agency. The ESD provides a long list of activity suggestions.

Michael Lee, the franchise owner of staffing agency Express Employment Professionals in Seattle, said he has seen a wave of people not only get laid off from their jobs but leave them voluntarily.

"A lot of folks are calling this the Great Resignation," Lee said.

Lee's agency works with employers who are looking to fill mid to entry-level positions for office work, customer service and light industrial work such as warehouse, distribution center and box truck driver jobs.

"It's a job seeker's market right now, and they know it," said Lee. "They know the jobs will be there when they're ready to come back."

Lee added that some job seekers still feel concerned about COVID safety and returning to the workplace but said many applicants are aware of readily available extended unemployment benefits.

"A lot of them are making more money on unemployment than they would working," said Lee. "So why would you work if you don't have to, right?"

When the job search requirement kicks back in, ESD is requiring applicants to complete at least three job search activities if they are applying for regular unemployment insurance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

Those receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance must complete at least one job search activity, though ESD encourages three.

ESD's job search requirements page offers a lengthy list of documentation ideas that can prove a job search is happening, as there is a potential for audits, according to ESD spokesperson Director Nick Demerice.

Meanwhile, Lee said his staffing agency is ready for more job seekers looking for help finding a job.

"We're preparing for that. We're hopeful for that and we're ready. We've got over a hundred open jobs right now with our client companies," said Lee.