Section banner with text: The Employment Security Department administers Washington's unemployment insurance system, which keeps our state's economic engine moving by replacing a small portion of lost wages to laid-off workers.

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.
Orient yourself with the online services we provide by visiting our UI customer service one-stop page.
How to apply for unemployment benefits

The fastest way to apply for benefits is online.  While you can file by phone, you should expect extended wait times. There are no in-person unemployment offices in Washington state. 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.
Applying online is usually faster than by phone. With eServices, you can apply for benefits, file weekly claims (step 5) and see how much you’ll be paid. You can also read and reply to notices from us, update your personal information, sign up for direct deposit or a debit card, apply for training, send a question and more.

To use eServices, you need to:

  1. Sign in with a SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account. If you established a SAW account for or another state service, you can use that same user name and password. If not, follow the instructions to create a new SAW account.
  2. Answer questions to verify your identity. You’ll only need to do this the first time you sign in. Don’t rush through the questions. If you answer incorrectly, the system will not recognize you. This added layer of security is designed to prevent identity thieves from accessing your account.
  3. Confirm the computer or mobile device you are using the first time you sign in or whenever you use a new device.

Don’t have a computer? Stop by your local library or WorkSource center to use a computer.

A confirmation page appears when you successfully submit an application.You also will receive verification by email, if you gave us your email address and permission to correspond with you. 


We take applications by phone 8 a.m-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday except on holidays.  If your Social Security number ends with:
  • 0, 1, 2 or 3, call on Tuesday.
  • 4, 5 or 6, call on Wednesday.
  • 7, 8, or 9, call on Thursday.
  • Anyone may call on Friday.
Expect long wait times.  

Applying for unemployment benefits later in the week will not delay benefit payments.
Step 3:
After you apply
Read your Statement of Benefits, Wages & Hours and 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 send you. If you chose to receive information via eServices, we will send you an email notifying you when you have new information that requires your attention. 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!

WorkSource logo link to

    Step 5:
    File a weekly claim or restart 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 restart your claim this week, then begin filing weekly claims next week, as normal.
    Additional benefit information