5/20/2021

Employment Security Department
#21-030

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – May 20, 2021
Email media inquiries:  media@esd.wa.gov

Initial and continued claims for regular benefits increased during the week of May 9 – May 15

OLYMPIA – During the the week of May 9 – May 15, there were 19,619 initial regular unemployment claims (up 18.2 percent from the prior week) and 469,098 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (up 7.6 percent from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).  

  • Initial regular claims applications are now 86 percent below weekly new claims applications during the same period last year during the pandemic.
  • The 4-week moving average for initial claims remain elevated at 14,590 (as compared to the 4-week moving average of initial claims pre-pandemic of 6,071 initial claims) and remains at similar levels of initial claims filed during the Great Recession.
  • Initial and continued claims for regular benefits increased over the week while initial claim applications for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) decreased over the week.
  • Increases in layoffs in Health Care and Social Assistance, Educational Services, and Retail Trade contributed to the increase in regular initial claims last week.
  • We have also seen a recent increase in fraudulent claim applications, which is contributing to the increase in initial claims. Our controls to identify these fraudulent claims are working. These claims will show up in the weekly claims numbers even though they are not paid.
  • The decrease in initial claims for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program this week is associated with a program change in the existing PEUC application that occurred during the prior week.

In the week ending May 15, ESD paid out over $284 million for 318,367 individual claims. Since the crisis began in March 2020, ESD has paid more than $18.1 billion in benefits to over a million Washingtonians.

Unemployment claim type

Week of

May 9- May 15

Week of

May 2- May 8

Week of

April 25- May 1

Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) initial claims

19,619

16,605

10,507

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims

2,290

2,485

1,855

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims

3,337

7,603

2,262

Continued/ongoing weekly claims

443,852

409,421

389,633

Total claims

469,098

436,114

404,257

 Note: You can find detailed claims data anytime on the ESD website.

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

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, May 27, 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 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.

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

Web links

COVID-19 resources

Labor market web links

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