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Employment Security Department



Media inquiries: media@ESD.WA.GOV

New claims for unemployment benefits drop, but remain at record levels

OLYMPIA – During the week of April 12-18, there were 82,435 initial and 605,514 total claims for unemployment benefits, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD). While initial claims declined 42 percent from the previous week, the total claims continued to grow.

During the week of April 12-18, ESD paid out over $177 million to 352,909 unemployed workers, a $51.3 million increase from the previous week. Since the week ending March 7 when COVID-19 job losses began, the department has paid out nearly $496 million in benefits to Washingtonians.

 “It is hard to imagine that the fifth highest week of claims in Washington state history could be considered the calm before the storm, but that is certainly what we saw last week,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “Although remaining at historic levels, the initial claims dropped last week before the tsunami of applications began this week when we launched the expanded benefit applications under the federal CARES Act. The updates went live on Saturday night, after which we received more applications in 36-hours than we did during the entire record-breaking week at the end of March. While we know many more are struggling to apply in the crush of volume we’re receiving, we will keep working until everyone gets the money for which they are eligible.”


Below is a seven-week summary of statewide initial claims filed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis:

Weekly data breakdown

By industry

Industry sectors experiencing the highest number of initial claims during April 12-18 were:

  • Retail trade: 9,485 initial claims, down 6,426 initial claims from previous week
  • Health care and social assistance: 9,134 initial claims, down 3,649 initial claims from the previous week
  • Manufacturing: 8,335 initial claims, down 25,002 initial claims from previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 7,668 initial claims, down 3,565 initial claims from previous week
  • Construction: 6,742 initial claims, down 10,549 initial claims from previous week

Only one industry sector experienced an increase of initial claims during April 12-April 18:

  • Management of companies and enterprises: 214 initial claims, up 69 percent from the previous week.

By county

King County, the most populous in the state saw initial claims decrease from 39,796 to 24,461 during the week of April 12-April 18, down 39 percent from the week before.

Other counties with the largest number of initial claims during the week were:

  • Pierce County: Initial claims filed decreased from 19,377 to 11,016 down 43 percent from the week before.
  • Snohomish County: Initial claims filed decreased from 27,780 to 10,958 down 35 percent from the week before.
  • Spokane County: Initial claims filed decreased from 8,382 to 5,069 down 40 percent from the week before.
  • Clark County: Initial claims filed decreased from 5,591 to 3,707 down 34 percent from the week before.

Demographic breakdown – complete charts are provided in Appendix A below (This information is asked during the application process).

During the week of April 12-18:

  • By gender: 48.5 percent (39,979) of the initial claims were filed by females while 51.1 percent (42,130) were filed by males
  • By age: 25.5 percent (21,009) of initial claims were filed by the 25-34 year old age group, followed by 21.1 percent (17,361) by the 35-44 year old age group and 17.8 percent (14,685) by the 45-54 year old age group.
  • By race: 65.2 percent (53,741) of initial claims were filed by Caucasians, followed by 10.1 percent (8,332) filed by Asian Americans and 5.9 percent filed by African Americans.

Please see new charts in the Appendix A below.  For complete information of weekly initial claims by industry sector and county for the year to date, also check the weekly unemployment initial claims charts compiled by ESD’s Labor Market & Economic Analysis division. For more information about specific counties, contact one of ESD’s regional local economists.

NOTE: ESD will send out the next weekly new claims press release on Thursday, April 30 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

Data disclaimer

"Initial claims” include individuals who filed first-time claims as well as additional claims filed by individuals as a result of a new unemployment event. Initial claims include claims that are still being reviewed for eligibility. Counts for initial claims are not indicative of the number of claims that will result in monetary compensation. Counts are estimated due to the unprecedented volume of claims.

Per U.S. Department of Labor regulations, weekly unemployment claims data is embargoed and not available for release until the Thursday following the claim week. 


Employment Security is a proud partner in the statewide WorkSource system, which provides employment and training assistance to job seekers and businesses. While WorkSource centers are closed for in-person services during the COVID-19 outbreak, customers can still get help from WorkSource staff by phone and through the Live Chat feature on WorkSourceWA.com. The website provides access to thousands of Washington jobs and other employment resources. Chat agents cannot answer unemployment benefit questions.

COVID-19 resources

Washington state Employment Security Department unemployment insurance information for workers and employers

State of Washington’s coronavirus website

Washington state Department of Health public health resources

Labor market web links

Appendix A

Initial claims by industry sector

Initial caims by county

Initial claims by gender

Initial claims by age