New jobless claims in Washington fell slightly last week but remain above pre-pandemic levels as the state’s labor market absorbs seasonal layoffs, the lingering effects of winter weather and a new wave of coronavirus cases. COVID-19.
Washington residents filed 11,302 new or “initial” claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending Saturday, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Employment Security. That’s down 2.8% from the previous week, but well above the pre-pandemic level for the same week in 2020.
The latest claims data from Washington comes as the country saw an 11.1% increase in new claims, to 230,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
In Washington, the high claims likely reflect how recent extreme weather has put additional pressure on sectors, such as construction, agriculture and manufacturing, which were already experiencing normal seasonal layoffs, Anneliese Vance said. Sherman, Regional ESD Economist.
But the increase could also reflect “a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases” reported last week by the state Department of Health, Vance Sherman added.
Construction workers, for example, filed 5,376 new claims last week. That’s just a slight drop from the previous week, when claims in the construction sector doubled to 5,721, the highest level since May 2020.
Manufacturing workers filed 796 new claims last week, down 10.6% from the previous week, which saw the most new claims in manufacturing since early June.
The spike in seasonal layoffs has helped boost not only the number of workers receiving benefits in recent weeks, but also the size of the average benefit payment, which is determined by workers’ wage levels.
Nearly 58,000 Washingtonians collected benefits last week, up 21% from the previous week, and total benefits paid rose 32.6% to $30.9 million.
The average weekly benefit payment was $533, nearly $100 more than at the end of October. This increase likely reflects the shift in seasonal layoffs from industries such as hospitality, which tend to pay lower wages, to industries such as construction and manufacturing, where wages are often higher.