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Employment Security Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 5, 2020


Media inquiries: media@ESD.WA.GOV

State passes $12 billion in unemployment benefits paid out during the crisis while new claims remain fairly steady

OLYMPIA – During the week of October 25 - 31, there were 14,681 initial regular unemployment claims (up 3.4 percent from the prior week) and 465,563 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (down 2.1 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 113 percent above last year’s weekly new claims applications.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims and continued claims for regular benefits all decreased over the week.
  • Initial claims increased in industries primarily where seasonal layoffs are expected this time of year, including agriculture and construction.

In the week ending October 31, ESD paid out over $143 million for 307,351 individual claims. Since the crisis began in March, ESD has paid more than $12.1 billion in benefits to over a million Washingtonians.

Unemployment claim type

Week of

October 25 - 31

Week of

October 18 - 24

Week of

October 11- 17

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




For more information on current claimants and claims processing progress, please go to the benefits data dashboard on the ESD website.

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 thirty-five-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 October 25- October 31 were:

  • Construction: 1,931 initial regular claims, up 175 (10 percent) from the previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 1,546 initial regular claims, up 14 (1 percent) from previous week
  • Health care and social assistance: 1,174 initial regular claims, down 33 (-3 percent) from the previous week
  • Manufacturing: 1,072 initial regular claims, up 83 (8 percent) from previous week
  • Retail trade: 1,054 regular initial claims, down 81 (-7 percent) from the previous week

By occupation

  • Construction and extraction occupations:  2,115 regular initial claims, up 104 (5 percent) from the previous week
  • Management occupations:  1,620 regular initial claims, down 21 (-1 percent) from the previous week
  • Food preparation and serving: 1,571 regular initial claims, up 8 (1 percent) from previous week
  • Office and administrative support occupations:  1,176 regular initial claims, up 2 (.2 percent) from the previous week
  • Transportation and material moving occupations:  1,143 regular initial claims, up 79 (7 percent) from previous week

By county

King County, the most populous county in the state, saw initial regular claims decrease from 3,552 to 3,382 during the week of October 25- October 31, down 5 percent from the week before.

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

  • Pierce County: Initial regular claims filed decreased from 1,755 to 1,722 down 2 percent from the week before.
  • Snohomish County: Initial regular claims filed decreased from 1,558 to 1,506 down 3 percent from the week before.
  • Spokane County: Initial regular claims filed increased from 908 to 1,025 up 13 percent from the week before.
  • Clark County: Initial regular claims filed decreased from 656 to 625 down 5 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 October 25 –31

Week of October 18 – 24

During height of the recession

Employers with an approved SharedWork plan

3,620 employers covering 103,924 employees

3,716 employers covering 154,606 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, November 12, 2020 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.

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 occupation