Unemployment Rate Falls, Payroll Employment Inches Forward

Washington’s economy added 1,000 jobs in October and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for October decreased from 8.3 percent (adjusted) to 6.0 percent according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).

MonthTotal Jobs (losses or gains)Unemployment rate2019 Unemployment Rate
March 2020–  27,9005.1 percent4.5 percent
April 2020– 259,500*16.3 percent*4.4 percent
May 2020– 44,900*15.1 percent4.4 percent
June 2020+ 53,100*10.0 percent*4.3 percent
July 2020+ 62,400 10.2 percent*4.2 percent
August 2020+ 50,100*  8.4 percent*4.2 percent
September 2020+ 23,800  8.3 percent*4.1 percent
October 2020+     1,000  6.0 percent4.0 percent
*Revised from previous preliminary estimates

“The preliminary read on October payroll employment shows a very small increase once more,” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “Upward revisions to the data in recent months show a stronger recovery, but renewed restrictions on business operations in response to mounting virus risk put the recovery in jeopardy.”

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 September’s previously reported unemployment rate of 8.4 percent was revised slightly downward to 8.3 percent. September’s preliminary estimated gain of 2,400 jobs was revised to a gain of 23,800 jobs.

The national unemployment rate decreased from 7.9 percent in September to 6.9 percent in October 2020. In October 2019, the national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.6 percent.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 453,798 people in October, a decrease of 99,489 over the previous month.

State labor force participation increases

The state’s labor force in October was 3,989,000– an increase of 60,700 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force decreased by 12,900 over the same period.

From October 2019 through October 2020, the state’s labor force increased by 42,600 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region decreased by 40,700.

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

From September 2020 to October 2020, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 326,000 to 238,600. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 117,900 to 82,000 over the same period.

Seven industry sectors expanded, five sectors contracted and one was unchanged in October

Private sector employment increased by 14,100 jobs while government employment decreased by 13,100 jobs. Provided below is a summary of the job gains and losses in all thirteen industry sectors.

 Industry sectorJob gains/losses
Professional & business services+  4,800
Retail trade+   4,100
Leisure & hospitality+   3,200
Construction+   2,400
Education and health services+   1,700
Transportation, warehousing & utilities+      400
Information+       100
Mining and logging              0
Financial activities–        100
Wholesale trade–        200
Other services–        500
Manufacturing–     9,700
Government–     13,100

Most payroll jobs lost year-over-year have been in leisure and hospitality

Washington lost an estimated 173,200 jobs from October 2019 through October 2020, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment fell by 4.5 percent, down an estimated 132,100 jobs, while public sector employment fell by 6.9 percent with a net loss of 41,200 jobs.

From October 2019 through October 2020, ten major industry sectors contracted while three industry sector expanded.

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

  • Leisure and hospitality down 70,600 jobs
  • Government down 41,200 jobs
  • Manufacturing down 26,600 jobs

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