Thurston County had some reason to smile this week when it recorded the lowest number of initial unemployment claims since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.
For the week of Sept. 6-12, 626 county residents filed initial unemployment claims, down from 657 the previous week and 674 the week before that. The 626 figure is the lowest since March 8-14, when 443 people filed initial unemployment claims.
By industry, workers in educational services filed the most claims, followed by food services and drinking places, and specialty trade contractors.
And despite the continuing COVID-19 doldrums, August turned out to be a pretty good month for our state’s overall economy, too. According to the Employment Security Department, Washington added 19,800 jobs in August while the unemployment rate decreased to 8.5 percent from 10.2 percent in July. Of the 19,800 jobs gained, 6,700 were in the private sector and 13,100 in the public sector.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state’s highest monthly unemployment rate of 16.3 percent occurred in April; that decreased a bit in May to 15.1 percent and then declined to 10 percent in June. Meanwhile, the United States unemployment rate dropped to 8.4 percent in August from 10.2 percent in July.
And though the state’s August economy showed some resiliency, it was a bit of a mixed bag for the state’s unemployment rate.
For the week of Sept.6-12, 18,403 individuals filed initial regular unemployment claims — down 8 percent from the prior week, but 566,443 people filed total claims for all unemployment benefit categories — up 6.6 percent from the previous week. Initial regular claims applications for the week are 242 percent above last year’s numbers.
For Sept.6-12, ESD paid more than $157.3 million to settle 340,352 individual claims — a decrease of $19.5 million and 16,349 fewer individuals compared to the prior week.