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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
March 5, 2024

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Washington’s total jobless claims top 750,000 as federal coronavirus relief kicks in


Newly available federal benefits helped draw more than 145,000 new unemployment claims in Washington last week, pushing the state’s total to nearly three-quarters of a million as coronavirus continues to hammer the state economy.

For the week ending April 25, the state received 145,757 initial claims for unemployment insurance, up nearly 75% from the number of claims received the prior week, according to figures released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The large increase came as initial jobless claims nationally dropped 18.5% to 3.8 million, the Labor Department reported

The surge in state claims–the state’s third-largest weekly number–came as tens of thousands of jobless workers who had been previously ineligible for state benefits took advantage of new federal coronavirus relief funds.

Officials with the Washington state Employment Security Department, which will report its own jobless figures later Thursday, had expected a surge in claims for unemployment insurance starting last week as the new federal benefits became available to state workers starting April 25.

The federal benefits, which flow through the state’s unemployment insurance system, were part of a $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus bill enacted in March and provide benefits for independent contractors and many other workers not typically eligible to claim unemployment insurance in Washington and other states. The federal package also includes a $600 weekly benefit for all unemployed workers and 13 additional weeks of benefits, which lifts Washington’s total to 39.

For weeks, the state Employment Security Department has braced for what department commissioner Suzi LeVine characterized as “a tsunami” of additional jobless claims as newly eligible applicants flooded the state’s over-worked claims system.

State officials said last week that the new applicants could push Washington’s total number of initial and recurring claims, which stood at 605,514 for the week ending April 18, to as many as 1 million for the week ending April 25.