Employment security

SEATTLE  — New weekly claims for unemployment insurance in Washington state decreased last week, but that’s probably not a sign of real recovery for the battered job market.

For the week ending July 18, Washington saw 29,438 new, or initial, claims for unemployment insurance benefits.

The state Employment Security Department reported Thursday that’s down 27.3% from the previous week, when jobless claims rose sharply after trending down for six weeks. And it comes as initial jobless claims increased nationally by 8.3% to 1.4 million, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

Washington’s new jobless data additionally comes amid concerns that surging coronavirus cases and other uncertainties may already be hindering the pace of the state’s nascent economic recovery.

The surge in hiring and re-hiring the state saw in May and June appears to be tapering off, and employers are increasingly uncertain about whether to ramp up operations.

Employers “are being very cautious, rightly so,” said Thomas Gilbert, associate professor of finance at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

Despite earlier rehiring, over 250,000 of the jobs the state lost at the height of the pandemic layoffs in March and April haven’t come back. That’s evidence, Gilbert said, that the state faces a “long slog to get back to ‘full’ employment.”

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