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Employment Security Department




Media inquiries: media@ESD.WA.GOV

New claims for unemployment benefits increase as more individuals become eligible

OLYMPIA – During the week of April 19-25, there were 1,455,908 total claims for unemployment benefits filed by Washingtonians for unemployment benefits, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).

                                         Unemployment claims for the week of April 19-25

Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) initial claims


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims


Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims


Continued/ongoing weekly claims


Total claims


Initial claims for regular unemployment benefits increased by 67 percent, and total initial claims increased by 453.3 percent over the previous week. While this is an increase of almost 10,000 percent over the same week last year, an average of 1.5 initial claims were filed per person for UI, PUA and PEUC. This was the first week that initial PUA claims could be filed by individuals such as self-employed workers and independent contractors, and initial PUEC claims for extended benefits were able to be filed.   

In addition, during the week of April 19-25, ESD paid out over $988 million (an increase of $811.2 million from the previous week) to a total of 504,407 claims (an increase of 151,498 from the previous week). An individual can file more than one claim, so the number of claims does not equate to individuals – that number is below.

Since the week ending March 7 when COVID-19 job losses began:

  • A total of 787,533 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment insurance
  • ESD has paid out nearly $1.5 billion in benefits to Washingtonians
  • 504,284 individuals who have filed an initial claim since the pandemic began have been paid

“The tsunami of claims we have been preparing for is reflected in this week’s data, as it shows the hundreds of thousands of workers applying for expanded benefits under the federal CARES Act since we updated our system to accept those applications on April 18,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “This is, by far, the largest week of unemployment benefits delivered in our state's history. We are humbled and grateful to be able to get those benefits to so many Washingtonians during this crisis, but our work is far from over. We know that people are struggling all across the state, and many are in desperate situations. We have received more initial claims in the past seven weeks than the previous three and a half years combined – it is a truly staggering amount of people affected by this crisis. I am so sorry that we haven’t been able to provide everyone with relief when they need it and we are working night and day to make sure that we do. We want to remind people; the money won’t run out and you won’t miss out. You will be paid all the benefits for which you are eligible.”

Below is an eight-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 19-25 were:

  • Healthcare and social assistance: 11,061 initial claims, up 1,927 initial claims from the previous week
  • Retail trade: 10,397 initial claims, up 912 initial claims from previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 10,049 initial claims, up 2,381 initial claims from previous week
  • Construction: 6,047 initial claims, down 695 initial claims from the previous week
  • Manufacturing: 6,045 initial claims, down 2,290 initial claims from the previous week

By county

King County, the most populous in the state saw initial claims increase from 24,461 to 40,088 during the week of April 19-April 25, up 63 percent from the week before.

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

  • Pierce County: Initial claims filed increased from 11,016 to 16,680 up 51 percent from the week before.
  • Snohomish County: Initial claims filed increased from 10,958 to 15,122 up 38 percent from the week before.
  • Spokane County: Initial claims filed increased from 5,069 to 7,794 up 54 percent from the week before.
  • Clark County: Initial claims filed increased from 3,707 to 6,292 up 70 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 19-25:

  • By gender: 51.4 percent (65,904) of the initial claims were filed by females while 48.2 percent (61,808) were filed by males
  • By age group: 20.5 percent (28,174) of initial claims were filed by the 35-44 year old age group, followed by 20.2 percent (27,863) by the 25-34 year old age group and 18.4 percent (25,355) by the 45-54 year old age group.
  • By race/ethnicity: 59.9 percent (82,382) of initial claims were filed by Caucasians, followed by 10.3 percent (14,549) filed by Asian Americans and 4.9 percent filed by African Americans.
  • By disability status: 2.5 percent (3,193) of initial regular claims were from individuals identified as having a disability, including 0.9 percent (1,167) who identified themselves as disabled veterans.
  • By veterans status: 4.5 percent (5,809) of initial regular claims were filed by veterans, with an additional 644 initial regular claims from individuals eligible for veterans benefits due to family relations with a veteran

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, May 8 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

Data disclaimer and definitions

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. 

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.

Continuing claims equal continued weeks claimed including a total of all weeks for which benefits were claimed, even though such benefits were not paid or payment status is uncertain or unknown, e.g., waiting weeks, partial weeks, weeks for which penalties are being served and weeks for which a monetary or nonmonetary issue is pending. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is an emergency program established by the federal CARES Act that temporarily expands unemployment insurance eligibility to self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is an emergency program established by the federal CARES Act that extends unemployment insurance for an extra 13 weeks to those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is an emergency program established by the CARES Act to increase unemployment benefits for Americans who are out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under FPUC, eligible people who collect certain unemployment insurance benefits—including regular unemployment compensation—will get an extra $600 in federal benefits each week through July 31, 2020. They do not need to file a separate claim to receive this money, it is automatically added to their payment. [NOTE OF CLARIFICATION ADDED ON JULY 13: FPUC is not payable for any week of unemployment ending after July 31, 2020. Since a “week of unemployment” in Washington state ends on any Saturday, the last day to receive FPUC must be on a Saturday prior to the end date in the CARES Act. Accordingly, the last week that FPUC may be paid is the week ending July 25, 2020.]

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 claims by county

Initial claims by gender

Initial claims by age

Initial claims by race/ethnicity


Initial claims by disability status

Initial claims by veterans status