Clark County reported a 21.3 percent increase in weekly initial unemployment claims last week, continuing a rise from the week before.
In the week ending Saturday, Clark County residents filed 5,945 initial unemployment claims. Most were from people in management occupations, a category that saw claims increase from 1,902 to 2,913 last week, said Scott Bailey, regional economist for Southwest Washington. Claims in the education services sector doubled from 380 to 715 claims.
The percentage increase in Clark County was lower than in the state as a whole, which reported a 26.8 percent increase.
Many of the claims don’t reflect the reality of the county’s unemployment issue, however, because of tens of thousands of fraudulent claims filed in the state, according to Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the Washington state Employment Security Department.
LeVine said Thursday that hundreds of millions of dollars were taken by the fraudulent claims, and a criminal investigation is ongoing. Due to the need to prevent fraud, the state is asking some customers to provide additional information. It’s also slowing down the time that claimants can receive their direct deposit.
The fraudulent claims did not result from a data breach at the Employment Security Department, LeVine said. She said countermeasures to the fraud have prevented hundreds of millions of additional dollars from being stolen.
The department’s website helps individuals and businesses affected by fraud. Visit https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/unemployment-benefits-fraud for more information.
Washington’s state unemployment rate rocketed to 15.4 percent for April, the highest ever recorded, according to the Employment Security Department.
“We expect that high percent to continue in May,” LeVine said.
Clark County’s unemployment rate for April will be released on Tuesday, and Bailey said he expects double-digit unemployment.