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Unemployment in Thurston County is at about 14.4 percent while the statewide rate is 14.8 percent, according to a May job market report recently published by the state Employment Security Department.

Initial claims for unemployment the week of June 14-20 also saw a slight increase both statewide and in the county.

In Thurston County, initial claims rose by 16 percent to 940 compared with the week prior. Statewide, there was a 2-percent increase over the week prior to 29,612 initial claims.

The increase is not currently indicative of an upward trend, ESD says.

“Although we did see a very slight increase in initial claims this week, we have held fairly steady the last three weeks at around 29,000 new unemployment claims,” ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine said at a Thursday press conference. “While this is a significant drop from our peak earlier in the crisis, we have leveled off at what are still record high numbers — exceeding what we saw in the peak of the recession.”

About one-third of the state’s workforce has applied for unemployment benefits, LeVine said.

LeVine said her department is working to pay out unresolved claims that have been held back with discrepancies at an average rate of four weeks. It currently takes about six and a half weeks for the department to pay out those types of claims.

The department also continues to make headway in filtering out fraudulent claims. Over the last two weeks, with the help of the National Guard, ESD has been able to clear 100,000 identification issues with claims, LeVine added.

“As I’ve said before, this effort will never be done. It will always be a race to stay ahead of the criminals,” LeVine said, adding that they’re still working on verifying the number of fraudulent claims filed back in May, which resulted in $350 million being lost to and recovered from a Nigerian crime ring. It’s estimated that $650 million was taken through fraudulent acts before some of the money was recovered.

Since job losses due to the pandemic began in March, ESD has paid out more than $6.5 billion in benefits to Washingtonians, most of which have been funded through federal dollars.

About 1.12 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic, with nearly 876,000 individuals who have filed initial claims having been paid out.

Total claims statewide saw a 3.3 percent increase over the prior week to 718,615.

The largest number of new initial claims in Thurston County came from the following industry sectors: specialty trade contractors, ambulatory health care services, food and drinking places, and public administration.

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