Employment Security Department

Email media inquiries:  media@esd.wa.gov  

All initial unemployment claims and continued claims increased during the week of December 27 – January 2

OLYMPIA – During the week of December 27- January 2, there were 29,651 initial regular unemployment claims (up 54.5 percent from the prior week) and 557,419 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (up 12.1 percent from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).  

  • Initial regular claims applications remain at elevated levels and are at 201 percent above last year’s weekly new claims applications.
  • Initial claims for regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and continued/ongoing claims for regular benefits all increased over the week.
  • The initial regular claims figures include new and restarted claims.  The 54.5 percent increase in initial regular claims occurred across all industry sectors over the week. 
    • Seasonal layoffs in construction and increases in initial claims from the accommodation and food services sector drove the largest increase in new jobless claims last week. Initial regular claims in the construction sector increased by 1,612 over the week to 4,941 total regular initial claims, while initial regular claims in the Accommodation and Food Services sector increased by 1,001 over the week to 3,096 initial claims.
    • The other industry sectors that experienced substantial increases in initial claims over the week were in Retail trade (+774) and Manufacturing (+707). The increases in retail trade are partly associated with post-holiday layoffs in the retail trade sector.   
  •  A total of 90,846 Washingtonians have also received $49.9 million in Pandemic Relief Payments (PRP). The PRP is a one-time payment of $550 for some recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. You can learn more about these payments on our website.

In the week ending January 2nd, ESD paid out over $182.7 million for 316,175 individual claims. Since the crisis began in March, ESD has paid more than $13.4 billion in benefits to over a million Washingtonians (this total does not include the $49.9 million in PRP payments sent last week). 

Unemployment claim type

Week of

December 27-January 2

Week of

December 20-December 26

Week of

December 13-December 19

Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) initial claims




Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims




Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Extended benefit (EB) initial claims




Continued/ongoing weekly claims




Total claims




Note: Detailed claims data and charts by county, industry and occupation will be included in this release on a monthly basis. You can find detailed claims data anytime on the ESD website.

Below is a forty-four-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 December 27- January 2 were:

  • Construction: 4,941 initial regular claims, up 1,612 (48 percent) from the previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 3,096 initial regular claims, up 1,001 (48 percent) from previous week
  • Retail trade: 2,230 regular initial claims, up 774 (53 percent) from the previous week
  • Health care and social assistance: 2,208 initial regular claims, up 630 (40 percent) from the previous week
  • Manufacturing: 2,091 initial regular claims, up 707 (51 percent) from previous week 

By occupation

  • Construction and extraction occupations:  5,117 regular initial claims, up 1,665 (48 percent) from the previous week
  • Food preparation and serving: 3,216 regular initial claims, up 1,062 (49 percent) from previous week
  • Management occupations:  3,057 regular initial claims, up 1,300 (74 percent) from the previous week
  • Transportation and material moving occupations:  2,726 regular initial claims, up 1,033 (61 percent) from previous week
  • Office and administrative support occupations:  2,076 regular initial claims, up 746 (56 percent) from the previous week

By county

King County, the most populous county in the state, saw initial regular claims increase from 4,029 to 6,367 during the week of December 27- January 2, up 58 percent from the week before.

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

  • Pierce County: Initial regular claims filed increased from 2,297 to 3,655 up 59 percent from the week before.
  • Snohomish County: Initial regular claims filed increased from 1,823 to 2,946 up 62 percent from the week before.
  • Spokane County: Initial regular claims filed increased from 1,306 to 2,144 up 64 percent from the week before.
  • Yakima County: Initial regular claims filed increased from 1,160 to 1,699 up 46 percent from the week before.


For employers looking to avoid layoffs or slowly ramp up re-hiring during this crisis, SharedWork is a great program that can help. You can learn more at esd.wa.gov/SharedWork


Week of December 27 –

January 2

Week of December 20 – December 26

During height of the recession

Employers with an approved SharedWork plan

3,732 employers covering 102,236 employees

3,766 employers covering 103,291 employees

2,500 employers covering approximately 46,000 employees

Individuals who filed weekly claims for the SharedWork program









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.

ESD will send out the next weekly new claims press release on Thursday, January 14, 2021 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 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 CARES Act that extends unemployment insurance for an extra 13 weeks to those who have exhausted their 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 the week ending July 25, 2020. 

Web links

COVID-19 resources

Labor market web links

Appendix A

Initial regular claims by industry sector

Initial regular claims by County

Initial regular claims by occupations

Find a regional economist