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Washington Unemployment Benefits

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The Washington unemployment rates are on par with state levels in other parts of the country, and job loss can be unpredictable and unsettling. For these reasons, the state manages an unemployment insurance (UI) program, which is also referred to as unemployment compensation (UC). This short-term program receives its funding through employers’ tax contributions, and these monies may be used to support workers who recently lost their jobs. In particular, candidates who claim unemployment benefits cannot have caused issues that made them lose their previous positions, and they must meet the program’s financial prerequisites.

The Employment Security Department (ESD) of Washington State manages the unemployment insurance benefits program. In addition to organizing the program’s eligibility for unemployment stipulations, the ESD is also responsible for assessing and determining the results of all petitioners’ applications. The sections below provide insight on how claimants may best prepare to tackle this petition process. The information also explains what types of documentation claimants must prepare to submit their claims, how to prepare for the UC interview and what steps they may take if the ESD denies their petitions.

What is unemployment in Washington?

Washington unemployment insurance helps enrollees and their dependents stay afloat financially during job transitions. Candidates who successfully register for the program are permitted to use these funds to offset the cost of living while they search for new work opportunities. Each unemployment claim that applicants file is valid for one year. However, petitioners must remember this does not indicate that they will be able to collect on these claims for 52 weeks. In fact, the state sets a strict limit on the number of weeks claimants may receive UI funds during a calendar year. This maximum is currently set at 26 weeks.

Unemployment insurance coverage is not designed to serve as a fixed solution to enrollees who are experiencing job loss. As a result, this maximum enrollment limit is in place to ensure candidates are able to re-assimilate into the professional world in a timely manner.

Candidates who receive unemployment insurance benefits also have limits regarding the amounts of compensation they may receive throughout their claims. Each week, petitioners are awarded a weekly benefit amount (WBA). This number fluctuates in accordance with how much income candidates earn during a week and how much they earned in past calendar quarters. The minimum WBA for a UI claim is $162. Conversely, the maximum WBA candidates may receive is $681.

What are the requirements to get unemployment in Washington?

Enrollment eligibility for unemployment in Washington addresses two major factors when determining who qualifies for program benefits. These include the reason for unemployment and financial requirements.

The first stipulation pertains to the circumstances relating to why candidates are currently without work. Claimants who ask, “What are the requirements to get unemployment?” must remember that they need to have lost their jobs for reasons they could not control. Examples of situations that meet these unemployment insurance eligibility requirements include:

  • Work shortages: Candidates who were fired or laid off due to work shortages will likely qualify for UC. Similarly, petitioners who lost their jobs because their employers closed permanently fulfill this requirement.
  • Quitting: Petitioners who willfully quit their jobs generally do not qualify for UI. However, candidates who are victims of stalking or domestic abuse and quit their jobs in an effort to protect themselves or their dependents may still meet qualifications for unemployment.
  • Spousal/partner transfers: In some cases, applicants who leave their current jobs in order to relocate with their partners or spouses who receive reemployment opportunities may qualify for UI.

When determining who qualifies for unemployment in WA, the ESD rejects petitioners’ applications if they left their jobs for non-qualifying personal reasons. Candidates who quit their jobs because they disagreed with their supervisors or disliked their work schedules may not receive UI. Likewise, petitioners who are fired for reasons relating to willful workplace disobedience or misconduct do not qualify for UI benefits.

Next, there is a series of financial qualifications for UI that petitioners must meet in order to receive benefits. To determine if claimants meet this stipulation, the ESD examines how much applicants worked during their base periods. Base periods consist of the first four of the last five calendar quarters that concluded before petitioners filed their claims. In total, the base period is 12 months long.

Once the ESD establishes applicants’ base periods, it may then determine if candidates meet its eligibility for UI requirements. To qualify for benefits, candidates must have worked at least 680 total hours throughout their base periods.

How can I sign up for unemployment in Washington?

Petitioners must know how to apply for unemployment online in Washington or over the phone. Either of these options are acceptable ways for claimants to apply for unemployment benefits. However, claimants who do not have access to telephones or computers may wonder where to sign up for unemployment. These candidates may visit any WorkSource employment center and use the office’s tools to file their claims.

Whether utilizing the online application for unemployment or submitting their information over the phone, candidates must come prepared with specific information to help them complete applications quickly. Both of the systems shut down after brief periods of inactivity. As a result, candidates must be prepared to submit all of their credentials at one time or risk being locked out of the system.

In order to file for an unemployment claim in WA, claimants must have:

  • Personal information: To complete their unemployment registration, candidates must submit various pieces of personal information. Specifically, claimants must report their Social Security Numbers, names, birthdates and their highest completed levels of education.
  • Contact information: Applicants need to report their mailing, physical and email addresses. They must also disclose their phone numbers.
  • Employment history: Petitioners must submit their professional histories, including information about every employer they worked for in the previous 18 months. This list must include any employers that claimants worked for, even if they were less than full-time, such as part-time or temporary or contract work. Furthermore, candidates must report the names and corresponding mailing addresses for each of these companies. Finally, petitioners must provide reasoning that explains why they are no longer working at these establishments.

Depending on candidates’ previous jobs, statuses and associations, they may need to provide the ESD with additional information when they file for unemployment. More specifically:

  • Union members must report the names and local numbers for their respective union halls.
  • Foreign-born applicants need to disclose their Alien Registration Numbers.
  • Federal employees have to submit their SF-8 or SF-50.
  • Military members must provide their DD 214, including any copies from 2 through 4.

How do I prepare for the unemployment insurance interview in Washington?

Occasionally, petitioners may need to prepare for the unemployment insurance interview in Washington. While receiving a request to participate in an unemployment phone interview may seem intimidating, it does not necessarily mean petitioners’ claims will be denied. However, these conversations play critical roles in the UI application process, and candidates must take these requests seriously.

In most cases, a UC phone interview is necessary because the ESD has specific questions regarding the circumstances that resulted in claimants’ job losses. These uncertainties must be resolved before the department may approve or deny candidates’ petitions. To help gain truthful and comprehensive information, the ESD may also elect to conduct an unemployment interview with the employer that candidates recently separated from. The information the employers provide is compared to the claimants’ testimonies, although the conversations take place at different times.

Many petitioners want to know how to pass the unemployment interview because they understand the importance of these conversations. Instead of worrying about this, however, claimants should focus on being as honest and concise as possible in their answers to the ESD. The department is only concerned with obtaining factual information from petitioners, so applicants must make this their primary focus. In order to help substantiate their claims, candidates should bring any documents that prove their testimonies. Examples of valuable information they should have on hand for the UI phone interview includes termination notices, copies of their contracts or notes they took during their exit interviews.

How do I claim unemployment benefits in Washington?

Petitioners who are accepted into the UC program are obligated to claim unemployment benefits in Washington for each week they are enrolled. Candidates have the option of certifying their unemployment benefits claim online or over the phone. In either case, applicants must answer various questions in order to prove they are still eligible for UC and that they are meeting the program’s obligations. These inquiries relate to if petitioners:

  • Worked during the weeks they are claiming.
  • Earned any wages throughout the week.
  • Were available to work each day they are claiming.
  • Refused valid work opportunities.
  • Received any reimbursement pay, such as pension, vacation or sick time.

It is imperative that candidates who have an active unemployment benefits claim accurately report this information each week they collect benefits. Furthermore, candidates who worked during their UI weeks must also provide the ESD with specific information regarding their employment experiences. In particular, enrollees must disclose:

  • How much they earned.
  • Where they worked.
  • Who they worked for.
  • When they worked.
  • How many billable hours they worked.

In addition, candidates who are claiming unemployment benefits in WA must be sure to complete and submit updates regarding their weekly work search requirements. Each candidate is responsible for completing a specific number of job search requirements each week they receive UI. These obligations are distributed and explained when petitioners receive their UC enrollment confirmations.

What do I do if I am denied unemployment in Washington?

Once claimants are denied unemployment in Washington, the ESD presents them with a 30-day window during which they may appeal these state decisions. Employers are also extended the same opportunity should they disagree with the department’s assessments. Appeals must be mailed or faxed to the Claim Center Appeals in Olympia. All denied unemployment benefits appeals need to include the following information:

  • The petitioners’ names and Social Security Numbers.
  • Reasons outlining why they are appealing these determinations.
  • The dates these determinations were issued.
  • Any reasons the ESD gave for denying their benefits after the initial determination process.
  • Evidence and witnesses they would like to have support their claims.

An unemployment denial appeal is heard by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). Candidates must remember this governmental entity exists separately from the ESD. This office sends claimants and their supervisors notices detailing when their phone appeal hearings will take place. Claimants who had their unemployment benefits denied or their employers may have lawyers represent them during these trials. However, this is a personal decision, and each party is responsible for contracting their own legal support systems, if warranted.

After the denied UI hearings conclude, the presiding judges mail their determinations to both parties involved in the case. If candidates once again have their UC benefits denied, they may file an additional appeal. Employers also have this right should they disagree with the judges’ reconsiderations. Second-level appeals must be directed to the Commissioner of the Employment Security Department.

How can I apply for a federal unemployment extension in Washington?

When a Washington federal unemployment extension is available, UC enrollees may be eligible to receive program funds for additional weeks. Under circumstances when periods of joblessness are normal throughout the state and country, claimants are only eligible to collect UI benefits for 26 weeks during a 52-week period.

However, an unemployment benefits extension permits candidates to receive benefits for longer periods of time. While these additions are useful to enrollees, they are not commonly available. Congress decides when an unemployment extension becomes available, and they are only offered during periods when job loss levels are elevated in the state.

How do I contact the Washington unemployment office?

The Washington unemployment office serves as a resource for local petitioners who have questions regarding their UI claims. In addition, the UC benefits office is also available to answer any inquiries employers have as they navigate the program. Individuals may call the ESD directly, or they may elect to call the office’s general call center number. However, candidates who live close to their local unemployment insurance office may elect to visit these establishments in person. The ESD office in Olympia can be visited at:

212 Maple Park Avenue SE

Olympia, Washington 98501


How do I apply for unemployment in Washington?

As in most states, Washington has 2 ways of filing an unemployment claim. The easiest and fastest way to file a claim is by going online at The other way you can apply is by calling the claim center at 800-318-6022 (Individuals with speaking or hearing impairments can call Washington Relay Service 711). Applications are taken by phone on Wednesdays and Fridays between 8 am and 4 pm (except for holidays).

How long can I receive unemployment benefits in Washington?

Unemployment claims in the state of Washington are good for one year, which is 52 weeks. However, that does not mean that every applicant will qualify for a full year of benefits. Most individuals who are approved for unemployment in Washington receive between 13 to 26 weeks of benefits.

How long can I receive benefits?

In Washington, your claim is good for a benefit year which is 52 weeks. However, it is not typical that an individual who has been approved for benefits would receive those claims for a full benefit year. Usually, a person who files a claim will receive benefits for 13 to 26 weeks.

Washington Unemployment Office Locations