Surge in unemployment benefit claims continues in Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — More than 170,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits in Washington last week, bringing the total number of new claims filed in the state to nearly half a million since mid-March, when businesses started closing or limiting operations due to the coronavirus outbreak. Officials say that while that while claim numbers for the week of March 29-April 4 were down slightly from the previous week, they are likely to surge again as previously ineligible employees _ like independent contractors and part-time employees who work fewer than 680 hours _ can start applying for benefits under the expansion of unemployment benefits passed by Congress and signed into law last month.