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On Capitol Hill, one in five — and in the CD, one in four — filed for unemployment in months since COVID-19 closures set in

Merchants board their windows for the impending COVID-19 zombie apocalypse

Since the start of widespread closures of businesses across Capitol Hill, the Central District, Seattle, and the state to mitigate COVID-19, thousands have been temporarily or permanently laid off. With rising COVID-19 numbers across King County and the halting of phased reopening, economic recovery remains uncertain.

In the Capitol Hill neighborhood, more than one out of five working age adults filed an unemployment claim over this spring and early summer, and in the Central District the number is even higher with more than one in four working age adults filing for unemployment.

According to the county’s updated unemployment claims dashboard, Capitol Hill — ZIP codes 98102, 98112 and 98122 — shows a roughly 23.6% per capita rate of jobless claims from March 1 through July 4, whereas the Central District — ZIP codes 98122 and 98144 — averages a higher per capita rate of jobless claims at approximately 26.9%.

Initial unemployment filings peaked in King County during these months and mirror the record numbers of unemployment filings reported throughout Washington State. The county dashboard reports a total of 424,578 new unemployment claims from March 1 through July 4, which is a 27.5% jobless claim rate per capita (people ages 16-64).

“The average number of unemployment claims filed in King County during March and April is 19 times greater than the average number filed in January and February this year,” King County reports. While the number of total unemployment claims remains high, new claims appear to have peaked and now plateaued.

Food service jobs were hit the hardest initially, with 35% of claims per capita coming from workers in the food service and accommodation industries between March 1 and May 2, according to the report. In contrast, King County reports that “claims per capita was 15% among healthcare and social assistance workers, and 20% among manufacturing and retail workers.” Management job claims sharply spiked during the week ending May 16 and then dropped back to levels seen in early March.

According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, there were 1,442,228 initial jobless claims over the same time period of March 1 through July 4, which gives a statewide per capita jobless claim rate of approximately 30.4% based on the 2019 population estimates of people ages 18 through 64.

At the end of April, CHS reported that Washington state total unemployment claims had reached a record high.

Statewide total unemployment claims peaked the week ending on May 16 and have subsequently plateaued. The state’s ESD reports:

During the week of June 28 through July 4, there were 28,393 initial regular unemployment claims (down 11.0% from the prior week) and 736,151 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (up 5.7% from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).  

  • Initial regular claims applications remain at unprecedented elevated levels and are at 416 percent above last year’s weekly new claims applications.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims as well as continued/ongoing claims all increased over the previous week.

“Although the number of initial claims has dropped significantly since the height of the crisis, and even dipped since last week’s figures, our current ‘steady state’ of initial claims is about 89% higher than the peak of the Great Recession,” ESD reports commissioner Suzi LeVine said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, Washington had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country for May 2020, ranking 42 out of 51 in the nation with a 15.1% unemployment rate.


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