State’s jobless claims remain at historic highs as recovery slows

By Paul Roberts

The Seattle Times

In the latest sign of a cooling recovery, new weekly claims for unemployment insurance in Washington declined only modestly and remain roughly twice the level the state saw during the Great Recession.

For the week ending July 25, workers in Washington filed 28,840 initial claims for regular unemployment benefits, a decline of 1.7% from the prior week, the state Employment Security Department reported Thursday. Nationally, new weekly jobless claims rose marginally, to 1.4 million, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

Washington’s numbers come as workers confronted a possible one-two punch to the state’s anemic rebound: the possibility of second shutdown as COVID-19 cases surge, and the prospect of a losing the $600 weekly federal benefit, the final installment of which goes out this week unless a bickering Congress extends it.

“Unless Congress acts soon to extend or alter it, the loss of this additional benefit will create hardship for many individuals and families,” warned ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine in a statement Thursday.

Media accounts suggest Republicans and Democrats in Congress remain far apart on whether to extend the weekly federal benefit and if so by how much.

Those negotiations are taking place amid new signs of the economic damage caused by the pandemic. On Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that the American economy contracted by 9.5% in the second quarter.

On an annualized basis, that’s a 32.9% decline in the nation’s gross domestic product, or GDP, the sharpest loss on record.

The total number of jobless Washingtonians remains depressingly high. Last week, 442,219 individuals received unemployment benefits, and increase of 11,480 from the prior week, the ESD said.