Unemployment benefits

What are unemployment benefits?
Unemployment benefits are made available through taxes paid by your former employer(s) to partially replace your regular earnings and help you meet expenses while you look for another job. These benefits are intended to assist workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are not based on financial need. While receiving benefits, it’s your responsibility to get back to work as quickly as you can.
How to apply for unemployment benefits

There are no in-person unemployment offices in Washington state. The fastest way to apply for benefits is online.  Under special circumstances, you may be required to file by phone—and you should expect extended wait times.  Even if you go to a WorkSource office, you will still be directed to apply for unemployment benefits online or by phone. These steps will help guide you through the process.
Dealing with fraud
We take fraud seriously. Misrepresenting or knowingly withholding information is considered fraud and you may be denied benefits for future weeks, have to pay back benefits you have received, and be subject to additional penalties.
Step 1:
If you're out of work, and not sure if you're eligible for unemployment benefits, please use the links below for information about your possible eligibility.
Step 2:
Apply online or by phone
Whether you apply online or by phone, be sure to have the necessary information ready before you start. Both systems will "time out" after a short period to protect the security of your personal information.
Most people can apply online. It's usually faster than by phone. A printable confirmation page appears when you successfully submit an application.

However, you must apply by phone if in the past 18 months you:

  • Had 17 or more employers, or
  • Worked in two or more states, or
  • Were unable to work for 13 consecutive weeks or more due to an illness or injury and are now released for work.
  • Don’t have a computer at home? You can file online using a smartphone or tablet—or stop by your local library or WorkSource office to use a computer there.


We take applications by
phone 8 a.m-4 p.m.
Monday-Friday except on holidays.
Expect long wait times.
Step 3:
After you apply
Watch your mail for your Statement of Wages & Hours.  Let us know immediately if you find errors.
  • Read the Handbook for unemployed workers (PDF, 3MB).  You're responsible for knowing the requirements and following the rules. It is available online, or you can pick up a printed copy from your nearest WorkSource center or you may request one by calling the claims center at 800-318-6022.
  • Report honestly
  • Watch for and read any information we mail or email to you. This information may be time sensitive and affect your eligibility for benefits.
  • Start your job search right away and document it. (See step 4)
  • Start filing your weekly claims (See step 5)
Step 4:
Look for work
Unless we tell you otherwise, you must look for a job and keep a written record of your job search efforts.  You also must respond quickly if we ask to see these records.

Job-search requirements 

Get job-search assistance

WorkSource can help you improve your job-search skills, find your next job and plan your career path.  Read the results of a study to learn how well WorkSource works!

    Step 5:
    File a weekly claim or reopen a claim
    Benefit payments don't start until after you begin filing weekly claims.  File a weekly claim for the prior week.  For unemployment purposes, a week runs from Sunday through Saturday – you cannot claim for the week until it is over.
    After you apply for unemployment benefits, you can file a weekly claim online to begin receiving benefits.

    Persons with hearing or speaking impairments can call Washington Relay Service 711
    If you were approved for unemployment benefits within the past 12 months, but stopped claiming for a week or more for any reason, don't submit a new application. You can reopen your claim this week, then begin filing weekly claims next week, as normal.
    Additional benefit information