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Employment Security Department



Media inquiries: media@ESD.WA.GOV

Total claims for unemployment benefits
increased almost 20 percent from the previous week

OLYMPIA – During the week of May 3-9, there were 109,425 initial regular unemployment claims (an increase of 8,663 from the previous week) and 1,301,564 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (an increase of 215,533 from the previous week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).

ESD paid out over $767 million (an increase of almost $130 million from the previous week) for 538,635 individual claims (an increase of 34,496 from the previous week).

Unemployment claim type

For week of

May 3-9

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 1,775,629 initial claims have been filed during the pandemic (1,135,046 regular unemployment insurance, 343,665 PUA and 296,918 PEUC)
  • A total of 1,027,292 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment benefits
  • ESD has paid out nearly $2.9 billion in benefits to Washingtonians
  • 751,149 individuals who have filed an initial claim have been paid

“We at ESD are incredibly proud to have paid out nearly $2.9 billion in benefits to Washingtonians over the past ten weeks – money that is vital to feeding people’s families, paying bills and paying rent. This is what drives us every day as we work to process the many tens of thousands of claims coming in each week,” said ESD Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “Yet even as we have delivered benefits to hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians, we know others are still waiting. On Monday, I announced the launch of Operation 100% – our push to get all benefits to Washingtonians who are eligible for and want to receive them. This effort is focused on approximately 50,000 individuals who have issues on their claims that need to be resolved by one of our staff. By doubling down on processing these claims for those who have been waiting, and providing radical transparency around our efforts, Employment Security is turning a laser focus to getting all eligible Washingtonians the benefits they need during this unprecedented crisis.”

Below is a ten-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 May 3-9 were:

  • Healthcare and social assistance: 13,340 initial claims, up 3,068 initial claims (30 percent) from the previous week
  • Educational services: 10,165 initial claims, up 5,905 initial claims (139 percent) from previous week
  • Retail trade: 8,965 initial claims, up 476 initial claims (6 percent) from previous week
  • Manufacturing: 7,894 initial claims, up 2,485 initial claims (46 percent) from the previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 6,355 initial claims, down 2,080 initial claims (25 percent) from the previous week

By county

King County, the most populous in the state saw initial claims increase from 31,550 to 37,701 during the week of May 3-9, up 19 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 12,813 to 12,938 up 1 percent from the week before.
  • Snohomish County: Initial claims filed increased from 10,864 to 11,677 up 7 percent from the week before.
  • Spokane County: Initial claims filed increased from 6,056 to 6,594 up 15 percent from the week before.
  • Clark County: Initial claims filed increased from 4,842 to 4,905 up 1 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 May 3-9:

  • By gender: 52.8 percent (57,733) of the initial claims were filed by males while 46.6 percent (51,008) were filed by females
  • By age group: 27.2 percent (29,701) of initial claims were filed by the 45-54 year old age group, followed by 21.8 percent (23,854) by the 35-44 year old age group and 19.9 percent (21,810) by the 54-64 year old age group.
  • By race/ethnicity: 65.0 percent (72,071) of initial claims were filed by Caucasians, followed by 5.7 percent (6,199) filed by Asian Americans and 5.6 percent filed by Latino/Hispanics (6,099).
  • By disability status: 1.5 percent (1,660) of initial regular claims were from individuals identified as having a disability, including 0.4 percent (429) who identified themselves as disabled veterans.
  • By veterans status: 3.0 percent (3,249) of initial regular claims were filed by veterans, including 369 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 21 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 regular 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