Unemployment claims in Washington more than doubled last week and it’s expected to get much worse

By Jim Camden

The Spokesman-Review

Washington unemployment claims more than doubled last week as the state began to restrict activities to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

State officials anticipate an even bigger jump this week, when figures are released next Thursday.

The Employment Security Department reported that 14,154 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed between March 8 and 14, a week that featured Gov. Jay Inslee’s call to restrict the size of gatherings to no more than 250 people and a closure of all schools.

The new claims represented an increase of 7,606 over the previous week.

The biggest increases were in the accommodation and food services sector, which was up nearly 600%, education services, up 570%, and entertainment and recreation, up about 250%

The largest group of workers filing new claims were age 34 or younger, the department reported.

“A dramatically larger number of employers are announcing coronavirus-related layoffs … so we anticipate substantially higher numbers of new claims in the report that will come out on March 26,” said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine in the news release announcing the latest numbers.

“Already this week, we have seen the daily rate of new claims coming in at levels that are similar to the highest weeks of the 2008-2009 recession.”

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits surged last week by 70,000 to the highest level in more than two years, the Associated Press reported.

The state employment security department received more than 19,200 calls Tuesday — an 827% increase in call volume compared with the same day last week. Its website had a combined 500,000 users Monday and Tuesday.