Unemployment numbers mark another record year

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More than 500,000 workers collected nearly $4.7 billion in unemployment benefits in another year for the record books.

Unemployment benefits in 2010 eclipsed records set in 2009, according to the latest update from the Washington state Employment Security Department.

"This has been another demanding year for Employment Security, but even more challenging for those who still can't find a job after months and months of looking," said Joel Sacks, Employment Security's deputy commissioner, in a prepared statement.

The number of recipients of unemployment benefits in 2010 grew from 475,000 in 2009, when $4 billion was paid, and 290,000 in 2008, when benefits totaled about $1.2 billion.

About 58 percent of the 2010 benefits were paid by the federal government as emergency and extended benefits.

Other details from Washington's unemployment picture in 2010:

The average length jobless workers collected benefits increased from 28 weeks at the end of 2009 to 41 weeks by the close of 2010.

The unemployment rate in Washington reached its highest level since the recession of the early 1980s in March, when it was 9.5 percent.

The number of unemployed workers in the state reached an all-time high in February, when 363,160 (a number not adjusted for seasonal factors) were unemployed. That number includes only the unemployed who were actively seeking work. The figure declined to about 323,000 in November.

By the end of the year, the number of people who will have received employment counseling and assistance through local WorkSource centers in 2010 is expected to be 375,000. That's about 10,000 fewer people than the number that received those services in 2009.

A record 3,500 employers participated in Employment Security's Shared-Work Program as a way to reduce payroll costs and avoid layoffs. In 2009, that number was 2,700.

Employment Security workers logged about 46,000 hours of overtime at unemployment call centers. That's down from about 65,000 in 2009.

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