Initial unemployment insurance claims in Washington jump 55% in most recent week; nationally, claims dip slightly.

Nearly 30,000 Washingtonians filed for unemployment insurance benefits in the last week, a sharp increase from the prior week and another indication of a still-reeling economy. The Employment Security Department reports,

During the week of December 27- January 2, there were 29,651 initial regular unemployment claims (up 54.5 percent from the prior week) and 557,419 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (up 12.1 percent from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).  

  • Initial regular claims applications remain at elevated levels and are at 201 percent above last year’s weekly new claims applications.
  • Initial claims for regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and continued/ongoing claims for regular benefits all increased over the week.
  • The initial regular claims figures include new and restarted claims.  The 54.5 percent increase in initial regular claims occurred across all industry sectors over the week. 
    • Seasonal layoffs in construction and increases in initial claims from the accommodation and food services sector drove the largest increase in new jobless claims last week. Initial regular claims in the construction sector increased by 1,612 over the week to 4,941 total regular initial claims, while initial regular claims in the Accommodation and Food Services sector increased by 1,001 over the week to 3,096 initial claims.
    • The other industry sectors that experienced substantial increases in initial claims over the week were in Retail trade (+774) and Manufacturing (+707). The increases in retail trade are partly associated with post-holiday layoffs in the retail trade sector.   

Nationally, the Department of Labor reports a slight decline in claims.

In the week ending January 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 787,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 3,000 from 787,000 to 790,000. The 4-week moving average was 818,750, a decrease of 18,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 750 from 836,750 to 837,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.5 percent for the week ending December 26, unchanged from the previous week’s revised rate. The previous week’s rate was revised down by 0.1 from 3.6 to 3.5 percent. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending December 26 was 5,072,000, a decrease of 126,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 21,000 from 5,219,000 to 5,198,000.

Reporting on the national data, the Associated Press writes,

The renewed surge in virus cases has caused millions of consumers to avoid eating out, shopping and traveling. And states have imposed new restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses. Economists at TD Securities estimate that more than half of states are now restricting gatherings to 10 people or fewer, up from roughly a quarter in September.

Those restrictions are forcing many companies, having run through much of their cash reserves, to cut more jobs.

Even with the vaccines, we are likely to face several months of sluggish economic activity.