Washington Unemployment Rate Drops to Historic Low

The state's unemployment rate fell to 4.5%, and the unemployment rate in Seattle/Bellevue/Everett held firm at 3.8% while growing its labor force.

November 15, 2017

Dan Shafer

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The unemployment rate in the state of Washington fell in October, matching a historic low.

The state gained nearly 7,000 jobs in the month, and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent, down from 4.6 percent in September and 5.3 percent in October 2016.

In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett metro area, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.8 percent, despite about 20,000 people being added to the labor force over the past year.

The national unemployment reate also went down during this time, decreasing from 4.8 percent in October 2016 to 4.1 percent in October 2017.

See the full press release from the state Employment Security Department:

October unemployment rate matches record low

OLYMPIA Washingtons unemployment rate fell from 4.6 to 4.5 percent in October equaling the states all-time low for unemployment set earlier this year, according to the state Employment Security Department.

Washingtons economy keeps growing, said Paul Turek, economist for the department. The demand for workers remains strong with ample opportunity for employment.

Washington added 6,900 nonfarm jobs in October. The department released the seasonally adjusted, preliminary jobs estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its October Monthly Employment Report.

In October last year, the statewide unemployment rate was 5.3 percent. The national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent this October and 3.8 percent in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area.

Employment Security paid unemployment insurance benefits to 48,122 people in October.

Labor force continues to grow in Washington
The states labor force rose to 3.76 million in October an increase of 14,100 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 4,500 over the same period.

From October 2016 through October 2017, the states labor force grew by 98,700 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 20,400.

The labor force is the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16.

Seven sectors expand and six contract
Private sector employment increased by 6,000 and government employment increased by 900 jobs in October.

This months report shows the greatest job growth occurred in professional and business services up 4,800 and transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 3,100. Other sectors adding jobs were construction (+2,700), wholesale trade (+1,000), government (+900), information (+300), and financial activities (+300).

Education and health services faced the biggest reduction in October, losing 4,000 jobs. Additionally, leisure and hospitality cut 900, retail trade eliminated 700, other services trimmed 300, manufacturing shed 200 and mining and logging clipped 100.

Year-over-year growth remains strong
Washington added an estimated 105,800 new jobs from October 2016 through October 2017, not seasonally adjusted. The private sector grew by 3.4 percent or 91,000 jobs, and the public sector increased by 2.5 percent, adding 14,800 jobs.

From October 2016 through October 2017, 12 of the states 13 industry sectors added jobs. Manufacturing (-1,600) was the only sector to report job losses.

The three industry sectors with the largest employment gains year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted, were:

  • Construction with 17,100 new jobs;

  • Professional and business services with 16,700 new jobs; and

  • Government with 14,800 new jobs.

Check out Employment Securitys other labor market information and tools, including a video tutorial, to highlight popular information and data.

Note: The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently updated its alternative measures of labor underutilization, or U-6 rate, for states to include the third quarter of 2017. The U-6 rate considers not only the unemployed population in the official U-3 unemployment rate, but also the underemployed and those not looking but wanting a job. The U-6 rate for Washington through the third quarter 2017 was 9.4 percent compared to the national rate of 8.9 percent. Washingtons U-6 rate is the lowest it has been since 2009.


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