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Employment Security Department

Employment Security Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 16, 2020

Contact:   media@esd.wa.gov

Employers add more jobs in August, unemployment rate falls

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 19,800 jobs in August and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for August decreased from 10.2 percent (adjusted) to 8.5 percent according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).


Total Jobs (losses or gains)

Unemployment rate

2019 Unemployment Rate

March 2020

-  28,300

5.1 percent

4.5 percent

April 2020


16.3 percent*

4.4 percent

May 2020

+ 90,500*

15.1 percent

4.4 percent

June 2020


10.0 percent*

4.3 percent

July 2020

+ 102,800

 10.2 percent*

4.2 percent

August 2020

+  19,800

  8.5 percent

4.2 percent

*Revised from previous preliminary estimates


“The swings in payroll employment have been sizeable since March,” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “Although the jobs market continues to heal, August marks a slowdown from the initial hiring rebound from reopening.

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 July’s previously reported unemployment rate of 10.3 percent was revised slightly downward to 10.2 percent. July’s preliminary estimated gain of 44,500 jobs was revised to a gain of 102,800 jobs.

The national unemployment rate decreased from 10.2 percent in July 2020 to 8.4 percent in August 2020. In August 2019, the national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.7 percent.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 508,568 people in August, a decrease of 81,833 over the previous month

State labor force contracts slightly

The state’s labor force in August was 3,955,100 – a decrease of 6,000 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 6,300 over the same period.

From August 2019 through August 2020, the state’s labor force grew by 24,400 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region decreased by 9,900.

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

From July 2020 to August 2020, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 403,700 to 337,800. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 141,300 to 127,600 over the same period.

Ten industry sectors expanded, one was unchanged and two sectors contracted in August

Private sector employment increased by 6,700 jobs while government employment increased by 13,100 jobs. Provided below is a summary of the job gains and losses in all thirteen industry sectors.


              Industry sector                                                 Job gains/losses


+ 13,100

Retail trade

+  4,300

Professional & business services

+  3,900

Transportation, warehousing and utilities

+  1,000

Education & health services

+     500

Financial activities

+     500


+     500


+     400

Leisure & hospitality

+     300

Mining and logging

+     100

Other services


Wholesale trade

-     1,200


-     3,600

Year-over-year loss in payroll employment evident in public and private sectors

Washington lost an estimated 216,100 jobs from August 2019 through August 2020, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment fell by 6.9 percent, down an estimated 203,200 jobs, while public sector employment fell by 2.3 percent with a net loss of 12,900 jobs.

From August 2019 through August 2020, all thirteen major industry sectors contracted except retail trade.

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

  • Leisure and hospitality down 100,500 jobs
  • Manufacturing down 27,800 jobs
  • Education and health services down 24,700 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.


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 first quarter 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 second quarter 2020 for Washington state was 10.9 percent. This was higher compared to the 7.7 percent U-6 unemployment rate one quarter prior. The annual U.S. U-6 unemployment rate was 10.4 percent in second quarter 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.  For labor market information questions regarding COVID-19, please email ESD’s Director of Labor Market and Economic Analysis.


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