employment security

OLYMPIA - The state saw a 150 percent increase in unemployment claims for the Week of March 8-14.

An even more dramatic increase was expected for last week, March 15-21, said Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine.

Business closures and curtailments because of the coronavirus outbreak led to an unprecedented demand for the agency’s services, she said.

Despite requests for more frequent updates, the department will stick with its weekly updates, which lag by seven to 10 days.

“We understand that during this unprecedented time, there is desire for more frequent information,” said LeVine. “Based on current direction from our federal partners, we are going to adhere to that frequency. We will, however, be discussing with our federal partners the need for more frequent information and will advise if and when that changes.

“However, there are also other indicators that give a sense of the demand and impact we are seeing.”

SharedWork, a layoff aversion program that employers may use to reduce the hours of their staff, but avoid laying them off, has experienced a more than 500 percent increase the week of March 8 from its usual volume.

The department’s website, ESD.wa.gov, had 280,000 users on each day of a two-day period, for more than 500,000 users in just two days. Typically, the department said it would expect 30,000 users during that time.

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