Unemployment rate hits nine-year low in Washington
Contact: Paul Turek, labor economist, 360-407-2306
Bill Tarrow, deputy communications director, 360-902-9376
OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 6,100 jobs in February and the state unemployment rate fell from 5.1 to 4.9 percent – the lowest report since March 2008, according to the state Employment Security Department.
“Washington’s economy is moving forward with sustained momentum despite cutbacks in aerospace,” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “The tech market is propelling western Washington, real estate is strong across the state and other economic segments are maintaining.”
The department released the seasonally adjusted, preliminary job estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its February Monthly Employment Report.
The national unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in February. The unemployment rate in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area was 3.5 percent. The February 2016 unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.
“Washington’s labor market is at or near full employment,” said Turek. “It’s creating pressure to increase wages for some businesses.”
Meanwhile, Employment Security paid unemployment insurance benefits to 71,000 people in February.
Labor force continues to grow in Puget Sound and across Washington
The state’s labor force rose to 3.68 million in February, an increase of 2,500 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 3,300 over the same period.
From February 2016 to February 2017, the state’s labor force grew by 81,200 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 43,400.
The labor force is the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16.
Eight sectors expand, three contract, two unchanged
Private-sector employment increase by 4,100 and government employment increased by 2,000 jobs in February.
This month’s report shows the greatest job growth occurred in construction and government with 2,000 new jobs each. In addition, professional and business services increased 1,300; leisure and hospitality added 1,100; other services was up 1,000; financial activities jumped 500; and wholesale trade and information added 100 jobs each.
Manufacturing faced the biggest reduction in February, losing 900 jobs. Transportation, warehousing and utilities cut 600; and retail trade clipped 500. Education and health services and mining and logging were unchanged.
Year-over-year growth remains strong
Washington has added an estimated 85,100 new jobs from February 2016 to February 2017, not seasonally adjusted. The private sector grew by 2.8 percent or 73,100 jobs, and the public sector increased by 2.1 percent, adding 12,000 jobs.
From February 2016 to February 2017, 12 of the state’s 13 industry sectors added jobs. Manufacturing (-7,100) was the only sectors to report job losses.
The three industry sectors with the largest employment gains year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted, were:
- Education and health services with 15,700 new jobs;
- Retail trade with 15,700 new jobs; and
- Government with 12,000 new jobs.
Note: The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently updated its “alternative measures of labor underutilization,” or U-6 rate, for states to include the fourth quarter of 2016. 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 annual U-6 rate for Washington through fourth quarter 2016 was 10.3 percent compared to the national rate of 9.6 percent. Washington’s U-6 rate is the lowest it has been since 2009.
- Monthly employment report
- Labor market information website
- Historical data (Excel spreadsheet)
- Employment Security website