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Employment Security Department
Monthly Employment Report for September 2021


Contact:   media@esd.wa.gov    

ESD Monthly Employment Report: Strong hiring, payroll increases continue in September

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 17,600 jobs in September. Between August and September, the preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.9 percent.

According to Labor Force Statistics Manager Jeff Robinson, “September’s job gains show a steady economic recovery consistent with our state’s ninth consecutive month of net payroll increases.”

The Monthly Employment Report includes preliminary job estimates for September from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and confirms August’s preliminary unemployment rate of 5.1 percent. There was an adjustment to preliminary data for August, with the estimated gain of 16,800 jobs revised downward to a gain of 16,400 jobs.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 242,000 people in September, a decrease of 32,036 over the previous month. The decrease in benefit payments over the month was primarily driven by the end of the CARES act, with the majority of decreases occurring in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits.  

National data

The national unemployment rate dropped from 5.2 percent in August to the preliminary rate of 4.8 percent in September. For comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) last year, in September 2021, was 7.8 percent.

Workers continue to trickle back to the labor force

The state’s labor force in September was 3,936,900 – an increase of 13,900 people from the previous month. Labor force is defined as the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 2,200 over the same period. From September 2020 to September 2021, the state’s labor force increased by 66,900 while the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 23,900.

From August to September, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 198,800 to 194,000. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 88,700 to 85,200 over the same period.

Of the industry sectors, in September:

  • Eight expanded.
  • Four contracted.
  • One industry remained constant.

Private sector employment increased by 18,100 jobs while government employment decreased by 500 jobs. In one of the tables below, there is a summary of the job gains and losses in all thirteen industry sectors.

Leisure and hospitality industry once again contributes most of the job gains

Washington gained an estimated 167,200 jobs from September 2020 – September 2021, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment rose by 5.9 percent, up an estimated 159,200 jobs, while public sector employment rose by 1.4 percent, up an estimated 8,000 jobs.

From September 2020 – September 2021, twelve major industry sectors expanded and one industry sector contracted.

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

  • Leisure and hospitality up 58,700 jobs.
  • Professional and business services up 26,200 jobs.
  • Education and health services up 18,100 jobs.

The industry sector that contracted year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted, was:

  • Manufacturing down 1,200 jobs.


Washington’s total jobs


Total jobs (losses or gains)

Unemployment rate

2019/2020 Unemployment rate

March 2020




5.3 percent*

4.4 percent

April 2020




16.3 percent*

4.3  percent

May 2020




12.5 percent*

4.2 percent

June 2020

+ 83,400*

10.8 percent*

4.1 percent

July 2020


+ 38,900


 10.8 percent*

4.1 percent

August 2020

+ 30,100*

  9.1 percent*

4.1 percent

September 2020

+ 12,400*

  8.0 percent*

4.0 percent

October 2020

+   6,200*

  7.0 percent*

3.9 percent

November 2020

+   7,600*

  6.7 percent*

3.9 percent

December 2020


-    9,100*


  6.3 percent

3.9 percent

January 2021

+   8,100*

  6.0 percent

4.0 percent

February 2021

+ 20,200*

  5.6 percent

4.1 percent

March 2021

+ 23,900*

  5.5 percent*

5.3 percent

April 2021

+ 13,200

  5.4 percent*

16.3 percent

May 2021

+   9,100*

  5.2 percent*

12.5 percent

June 2021


  5.2 percent

10.8 percent

July 2021


  5.1 percent

10.8 percent

August 2021


  5.1 percent

 9.1 percent

September 2021


 4.9 percent

 8.0 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.        

 Job gains and by industry and sector

Industry Sector

Job gains, losses

Leisure and hospitality

+    6,500


+    3,900


+    3,600

Retail trade

+    2,900

Other services

+    1,700

Education and health services

+     1,300

Wholesale trade

+       900


+       800

Mining and logging


Financial activities

-        100


-        500

Transportation, warehousing and utilities

-        500

Professional and business services

-     2,900


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.  WorkSourceWA.com provides access to thousands of Washington jobs and other employment resources. WorkSource staff can connect you with employers hiring right now in your community, identify training opportunities or help you brush up on your application and interview skills. Find your nearest WorkSource center on the WorkSource office locator page.

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 the third quarter 2020 through the second quarter 2021 for Washington state was 13.5 percent. This was lower compared to the 15.8 percent U-6 unemployment rate for the second quarter 2020 through the first quarter 2021. The U.S. U-6 unemployment rate for the third quarter 2020 through the second quarter 2021 was 11.9 percent.


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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