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Employment Security Department



Media inquiries: media@ESD.WA.GOV

New claims for unemployment benefits
decrease from previous week but remain at record levels

OLYMPIA – During the week of April 26-May 2, there were 100,762 initial and 1,086,031 total claims for unemployment benefits filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD paid out over $639 million (a decrease of $347 million from the previous week) to a total of 504,139 individuals (a decrease of 134 from the previous week). Approximately one-third of the $639 million paid out last week were paid with state unemployment trust funds vs two-third from federal funds.


Unemployment claim type

For week of

April 26-May 2

For 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




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

  • A total of 1,428,775 initial claims have been filed during the pandemic (959,196 regular unemployment insurance, 254,197 PUA and 215,382 PEUC)
  • A total of 810,538 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment benefits
  • ESD has paid out nearly $2.14 billion in benefits to Washingtonians
  • 545,178 individuals who have filed an initial claim have been paid

“Since the COVID-19 crisis began in early March, Employment Security has sent $2.14 billion into the pockets of more than half a million Washingtonians,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “This makes an enormous difference to those individuals and their families, and we are humbled to be able to provide these services in such a critical time. That said, there are approximately 57,000 who are waiting because there are issues with their claims we are working to resolve. Getting those Washingtonians their benefits is our agency’s top priority. We are doubling down on activities already underway to reach our goal of getting all of those claims in adjudication resolved or paid by June 15. We will be posting more information and details on our progress on our website in the coming days.”

Below is a nine-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 26-May 2 were:

  • Healthcare and social assistance: 10,272 initial claims, down 789 initial claims (7 percent) from the previous week
  • Retail trade: 8,489 initial claims, down 1,908 initial claims (19 percent) from previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 8,435 initial claims, down 1,614 initial claims (16 percent) from previous week
  • Manufacturing: 5,409 initial claims, down 636 initial claims (4 percent) from the previous week
  • Construction: 4,849 initial claims, down 1,198 initial claims (20 percent) from the previous week

By county

King County, the most populous in the state saw initial claims decrease from 40,088 to 31,550 during the week of April 26-May 2, down 21 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 16,680 to 12,813 down 23 percent from the week before.
  • Snohomish County: Initial claims filed decreased from 15,122 to 10,864 down 28 percent from the week before.
  • Spokane County: Initial claims filed decreased from 7,794 to 6,056 down 28 percent from the week before.
  • Clark County: Initial claims filed decreased from 6,292 to 4,842 down 23 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 26-May 2:

  • By gender: 49.9 percent (48,803) of the initial claims were filed by females while 49.7 percent (48,665) were filed by males
  • By age group: 21.0 percent (20,548) of initial claims were filed by the 25-34 year old age group, followed by 20.3 percent (19,852) by the 35-44 year old age group and 20.2 percent (19,735) by the 45-54 year old age group.
  • By race/ethnicity: 61.7 percent (60,426) of initial claims were filed by Caucasians, followed by 9.8 percent (9,572) filed by Asian Americans and 6.1 percent filed by African Americans (5,987).
  • By disability status: 2.4 percent (2,341) of initial regular claims were from individuals identified as having a disability, including 0.8 percent (747) who identified themselves as disabled veterans.
  • By veterans status: 4.5 percent (4,312) of initial regular claims were filed by veterans, including 441 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 14 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 reguar claims by industry sector

Initial regular claims by county

Initial regular claims by gender

Initial regular claims by age group

Initial regular claims by race/ethnicity

Initial regular claims by Veterans status


Initial regular claims by Disability status