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caption: A new record for initial employment claims in King County. The same is true for the state and for the entire country.
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A new record for initial employment claims in King County. The same is true for the state and for the entire country.

King County unemployment claims hit new highs

It’s the worst week yet for unemployment claims in King County. But there is some good news for people waiting for their checks.

Last week, 44,613 people in King County filed for unemployment —that's nearly the City of Bothell's population. Since the beginning of the coronavirus emergency, a total of 87,743 people in the county have filed. That’s approximately a City of Kirkland worth of people.

Few filers have received money yet. However, the federal stimulus package now gives people an additional $600 a week. Suzi LeVine, the state’s employment security commissioner, said the additional funds mean some people will notice no change in their income aside from the first few weeks of interruption.

“Those individuals making $62,500 will receive the equivalent of their weekly wage with this $600 addition to the weekly benefit,” she said.

LeVine said people who earned less than that amount will be paid more than when they were working. The effort is aimed at containing the economic damage from the coronavirus epidemic by encouraging households to continue spending.

State officials said it was too early to calculate a new official unemployment rate for the state. A month ago it sat at 3.8%.

Washington state has lots of money to give its jobless. In November 2019, the state reported having $4.86 billion in its unemployment trust fund, making it one of the best-prepared states in the country.