NCW — Unemployment claims in Chelan and Douglas counties increased tenfold last week as the economy grappled with state-mandated business shutdowns.

The state Employment Security Department received 1,473 claims from Chelan County for the week of March 15-21, an increase of 1,239% from the previous week’s total of 110, according to raw data released by the department Thursday.

Douglas County residents filed 539 claims last week, an increase of 1,072% from the previous week’s total of 46, according to the data.

“In a nutshell, this is unprecedented,” Regional Labor Economist Don Meseck said Thursday. “The number of claims is more than that what was even filed in the recent Great Recession.”

Claims soared statewide to 133,464 last week up, from 14,154 the previous week, according to the data.

“This data shows the enormity of the situation unfolding in our state,” Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said in a Thursday news release. “The velocity and volume of the impact of COVID-19 has created a crisis that is unprecedented in the history of the program — going back to the 1930s when it was established.”

The statewide industries that saw the biggest jumps were accommodation and food services, and health care and social assistance, according to the release.

Gov. Jay Inslee on March 15 announced that restaurants and bars would be limited to take-out and delivery service only. Events were also capped at 50 people.

But these numbers don’t reflect the governor’s new stay-at-home order issued Monday that will further limit business activity across the state.

“It’s a dramatic increase this week and it’s going to be interesting to see what the increase will be in the week ending this Saturday,” Meseck said.

Reilly Kneedler: 661-5213 or

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