King County’s unemployment rate last month was 5.7 percent, while the rates for nearby counties, Washington and the U.S. topped 7 percent.
The jobless report from the state Employment Security Department came on the heels of information from the agency that 90,331 Washingtonians applied for regular unemployment benefits last month, an increase of about 75 percent over December 2007. The previous record was set in December 2001, when 72,942 people filed initial claims.
In addition, a one-week record of 25,687 claims was set Dec. 21-27, which included the Christmas holiday.
“In barely a year, we’ve gone from historically low unemployment to record numbers of people applying for unemployment benefits,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee, whose department has increased the capacity of its phone system and doubled the number of staff answering phones at its call centers.
An estimated 251,000 people statewide were unemployed and looking for work in December, nearly 90,000 more than a year ago, according to officials.
Two counties neighboring King County – Pierce and Snohomish – had unemployment rates of 7.4 and 7.1 percent, respectively. The percentages were 7.1 percent statewide and 7.2 percent nationally.
To respond to the rapid increase in unemployment-insurance applications, the department has increased the capacity of its phone system and doubled the number of staff answering phones at its call centers, with another 35 currently going through the extensive training process.
Job-seekers can get help at Employment Security’s WorkSource offices, where services include free help with interviewing skills, resumes and job referrals. Current job openings are posted at www.go2worksource.com. Assistance also is available at 1-877-872-5627.