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It may be no surprise the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in activity in Washington’s employment offices.

In an announcement Wednesday, Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said the department is processing “unprecedented demand.”

Last week had a 150% increase in claims, and even more are coming this week.

LeVine said SharedWork, a layoff aversion program that can be used by employers to reduce staff hours while avoiding layoffs, saw a more than 500% increase last week from its usual volume.

The website had 280,000 users on both Monday and Tuesday. The more than 500,000 users in the two-day period eclipses the 30,000 during that would typically average in that time period.

On Tuesday, the office received 19,250 calls — an 827% spike from the same day the week before.

As Employment Security works with the Department of Labor to adjust its release of information, a data lag will be in effect, LeVine said. Employment Security normally releases claims data Thursdays and Mondays. That will switch to just Thursdays for the time being. Data may also lag seven to 10 days, meaning data for the week of March 8-14 would come out today.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.

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