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Friday, September 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Initial jobless claims down last week in Washington, Spokane

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 13, 2020

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

The number of people filing for unemployment insurance for the first time was down 11% in Washington last week with initial claims in Spokane County down 20%, according to the Washington state Employment Security Department.

It was the fourth week in a row initial claims in Washington and Spokane County have decreased, according to department data.

Total unemployment claims decreased by 13% last week. The department paid more than $273.8 million for 391,025 individual claims for the week of Aug. 2-8, a decrease of $301.3 million from the previous week.

Last week, the department announced it had cleared the backlog of people waiting to receive benefits since the beginning of the pandemic. The 81,500 claims covered a period from March through June and were delayed for identity checks or other problems, department commissioner Suzi LeVine said Aug. 3. The department is still working to resolve pending requests that came in after mid-June.

“It’s not mission accomplished,” LeVine said last week. “It’s milestone met.”

As of last week, the department recovered about $340 million from a statewide fraudulent attack that cost the state $576 million.

Since the beginning of March, the department has paid more than $9.5 billion in benefits to nearly 1.3 million people.

The industries experiencing the highest number of claims last week included manufacturing, health care, retail, construction, and accommodation and food services.

In Spokane County, the number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time was down 20% last week, from 1,599 the week prior to 1,283.

The number of continued unemployment claims in Spokane County decreased by 9.6% to 15,950.

The industries seeing the most unemployment claims in Spokane County continue to include food, service, construction and administrative, according to department data.

Last week was the first week since the additional $600 federal benefit expired at the end of July.

At a Thursday news conference, Gov. Jay Inslee said the state is still trying to decide a viable option for moving forward now that the $600 federal benefit has expired. He said he is still waiting for clarity from the Trump administration as well as Congress, which has yet to approve legislation that includes additional federal unemployment benefits. Trump Saturday issued an executive order that would provide $400 in federal benefits, with states providing 25% of that amount.

Inslee said families across Washington still need benefits.

“The need for unemployment compensation has not decreased,” Inslee said.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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