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Employment Security Department
Monthly Employment Report for February 2021


Contact:   media@esd.wa.gov    

Payroll employment growth strengthens in February; unemployment rate falls again

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 24,500 jobs in February and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate decreased from 6.0 percent in January (revised) to 5.6 percent in February according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).


Total Jobs (losses or gains)

Unemployment rate

2019 Unemployment Rate

March 2020

-  22,300*

5.3 percent*

4.4 percent

April 2020

- 387,800*

16.3 percent*

4.3 percent

May 2020

- 11,400*

12.5 percent*

4.2 percent

June 2020

+ 83,800*

10.8 percent*

4.1 percent

July 2020

+ 38,200

 10.8 percent*

4.1 percent

August 2020

+ 30,500*

  9.1 percent*

4.1 percent

September 2020

+ 12,000*

  8.0 percent*

4.0 percent

October 2020


  7.0 percent*

3.9 percent

November 2020


  6.7 percent*

3.9 percent

December 2020

-   5,400*

  6.3 percent

3.9 percent

January 2021

+ 10,100*

  6.0 percent

4.0 percent

February 2021

+ 24,500

  5.6 percent

4.1 percent

*Revised from previous preliminary estimates. Preliminary monthly estimates for jobs losses or gains are based on a small Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey while actual figures reported the following month are based on a more complete survey.

“The easing of restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 is helping those in leisure and hospitality regain jobs,” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “But hiring was also widespread across other industries, and the unemployment rate moved down accordingly.”

ESD released the preliminary job estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its Monthly Employment Report.

The department also announced that January’s previously reported unemployment rate of 6.0 was confirmed. January’s preliminary estimated gain of 4,400 jobs was revised to a gain of 10,100 jobs.

The national unemployment rate decreased from 6.3 percent in January to 6.2 percent in February. In February 2020, the national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.5 percent.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 400,544 people in January.

State labor force increases with more individuals gaining employment

The state’s labor force in February was 3,837,400– an increase of 2,200 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 4,000 over the same period.

From February 2020 to February 2021, the state’s labor force decreased by 124,600 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region decreased by 2,000.

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

From January to February the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 228,600 to 215,900. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 100,400 to 94,800 over the same period.

Twelve industry sectors expanded and one sector was unchanged in February

Private sector employment increased by 23,600 jobs while government employment increased by 900 jobs. Provided below is a summary of the job gains and losses in all thirteen industry sectors.


              Industry sector                 Job gains/losses

Leisure & hospitality

+    12,700

Professional & business services

+    2,500

Education & health services

+    2,400

Transportation, warehousing & utilities

+     1,500

Retail trade

+      1,300


+      1,200


+          900

Financial activities

+          800

Wholesale trade

+       600

Other services

+       300


+       200

Mining & logging

+       100




Jobs lost over the year still a concern

Washington lost an estimated 213,800 jobs from February 2020 – February 2021, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment fell by 5.6 percent, down an estimated 162,500 jobs, while public sector employment fell by 8.6 percent with a net loss of 51,300 jobs.

From February 2020 – February 2021, ten major industry sectors contracted while three industry sectors expanded.

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

  • Leisure and hospitality down 96,200 jobs
  • Government down 51,300 jobs
  • Manufacturing down 32,700 jobs

Labor market information

Check it out! ESD has new labor market information and tools, including interactive Tableau graphics to highlight popular information and data.

Monthly Employment Report publication schedule for 2021

Preliminary Data for the month of

State and Seattle Metropolitan Division data released

All Other County data released

January 2021

March 16

March 16

February 2021

March 24

March 30

March 2021

April 14

April 20

April 2021

May 19

May 25

May 2021

June 16

June 22

June 2021

July 14

July 20

July 2021

August 18

August 24

August 2021

September 15

September 21

September 2021

October 20

October 26

October 2021

November 17

November 23

November 2021

December 15

December 21

December 2021

January 19, 2022

January 25, 2022


Employment Security is a proud partner in the statewide WorkSource system, which provides employment and training assistance to job seekers and businesses. While WorkSource centers are closed for in-person services during the COVID-19 outbreak, customers can still get help from WorkSource staff by phone and through the Live Chat feature on WorkSourceWA.com. The website provides access to thousands of Washington jobs and other employment resources. Chat agents cannot answer unemployment benefit questions.

Note: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently updated its “alternative measures of labor underutilization” for states to include annual averages for 2020. One such alternative measure is the U-6 rate, which considers not only the unemployed population in the official “U-3” unemployment rate, but also marginally attached workers and those employed part time for economic reasons. The U-6 rate is defined by BLS as the “total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.” This U-6 measure measures the “unemployed, underemployed, and those who are not looking but who want a job.”

The U-6 unemployment rate for 2020 for Washington state was 14.8 percent. This was higher compared to the 13.0 percent U-6 unemployment 2020 rate third quarter. The U.S.
U-6 unemployment rate was 13.6 percent in 2020.


Labor market information questions regarding COVID-19

For workers or businesses affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak, the Employment Security Department (ESD) has programs that may be able to help. Please see ESD’s website for more information

Web links

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