Total claims for state unemployment benefits increased almost 28 percent from previous week — ‘some portion’ likely fraudulent

During the week of May 10-16, the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) reported that Washington residents filed 138,733 initial regular unemployment claims (an increase of 29,308 from the previous week) and 1,670,580 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (an increase of 369,016 from the previous week).

ESD believes some portion of the high numbers from the past week are due to an increase in fraudulent claims and is looking into how best to correct for that in future reporting cycles.

Commissioner Suzi LeVine said the department has “zeroed in on stopping the increase in fraudulent claims we’ve seen in recent weeks. We are working closely with federal law enforcement to stop fraudulent activity, to investigate these crimes and get as much of the stolen money as we can returned to us.”

ESD paid out over $1.01 billion (an increase of almost $256 million from the previous week) for 565,764 individual claims (an increase of 28,450 from the previous week).

Unemployment claim type Week of

May 10-16

Week of

May 3-9

Week of

April 26-May 2

Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) initial claims 138,733 109,425 100,762
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims 61,325 55,911 59,234
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims 59,630 47,626 40,267
Continued/ongoing weekly claims 1,410,892 1,088,602 885,768
Total claims 1,670,580 1,301,564 1,086,031

Since the week ending March 7 when COVID-19 job losses began:

  • A total of 1,937,576 initial claims have been filed during the pandemic (1,222,861 regular unemployment insurance, 381,904 PUA and 332,811 PEUC)
  • A total of 1,106,684 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment benefits
  • ESD has paid out nearly $3.8 billion in benefits to Washingtonians
  • 768,217 individuals who have filed an initial claim have been paid

Below is an 11-week summary of statewide initial claims filed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis:

Weekly data breakdown

By industry
Industry sectors experiencing the highest number of initial claims during May 10-16 were:

  • Educational services: 16,924 initial regular claims, up 6,759 (66%) from the previous week
  • Health care and social assistance: 15,759 initial regular claims, up 2,419 (18%) from previous week
  • Manufacturing: 10,789 initial regular claims, up 2,895 (37%) from previous week
  • Retail trade: 10,508 initial regular claims, up 1,543 (17%) from the previous week
  • Professional, scientific and technical services: 8,178 regular initial claims, up 1,940 (31%) from the previous week

By occupation

  • Management occupations:  69,373 regular initial claims, up 26,176 (60%) from the previous week
  • Business and financial operations: 9,330 regular initial claims, up 3,312 (55% from previous week
  • Office and administrative support:  6,268 regular initial claims, down 240 (-4%) from previous week
  • Food preparation and serving:  5,664 regular initial claims, down 315 (-5%) from the previous week
  • Sales and related occupations:  5,077 regular initial claims, down 616 (-11%) from the previous week
  • Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations: 4,299 regular initial claims, up 344 (9%) from the previous week

By county

King County, the most populous in the state saw initial regular claims increase from 37,701 to 47,136 during the week of May 10-16, up 25% from the week before. In Snohomish County, initial regular claims filed increased from 11,677 to 15,028 up 29% from the week before.


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