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Employment Security Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 22, 2020

Contact:   Paul Turek, labor economist, 360-507-9599
                   Bretta Beveridge, communications manager, 360-902-9293    

Payroll employment expands again in December; unemployment falls to new low

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy gained 10,900 jobs in December and the state’s seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for December fell slightly to 4.3 percent according to the Employment Security Department.

“Washington’s labor market finished the year with a flourish” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “The state unemployment rate fell to its lowest level ever based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics historical records dating to 1976.”

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

The department also announced that November’s previously reported unemployment rate of 4.4 was confirmed. November’s preliminary estimated gain of 12,200 jobs was revised to a gain of 12,800 jobs.

The national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.5 percent in December 2019. In December 2018, the national unemployment rate was 3.9 percent.

Employment Security paid unemployment insurance benefits to 69,944 people in December.

Labor force continues to grow

The state’s labor force in December was 3,956,800 – an increase of 16,700 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 5,900 over the same period.

From December 2018 through December 2019, the state’s labor force grew by 133,800 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 53,600.

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

Ten industry sectors expanded and three contracted

Private sector employment increased by 9,800 while the public sector increased by 1,100 jobs in December. This month’s report shows the largest private job growth occurred in retail trade up 3,300 jobs, professional & business services up 2,600 jobs, other services up 1,600 jobs, construction up 1,200 jobs and government and manufacturing both up 1,100 jobs. Also posting increases were education & health services up 600 jobs, information up 400 jobs, leisure and hospitality up 300 jobs and transportation, warehousing & utilities up 100 jobs. The three industry sectors that posted losses were wholesale trade down 700 jobs, financial activities down 600 jobs and mining & logging down 100 jobs.

Year-over-year growth in payroll employment picks up

Washington added an estimated 77,800 new jobs from December 2018 through December 2019, not seasonally adjusted. The private sector grew by 2.6 percent, up an estimated 74,000 jobs, while public sector employment rose 0.7 percent with a net gain of 3,800 jobs.

From December 2018 through December 2019, twelve out of the thirteen major industries added jobs while one sector contracted.

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

  • Information with 12,300 new jobs
  • Education & health services with 12,200 new jobs
  • Professional & business services with 12,000 new 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 partner in the statewide WorkSource system, which offers a variety of employment and training services for job seekers, including free help with resumes, interviewing and skills training. WorkSource also helps employers advertise jobs, convene hiring events and connect with subsidized employee training.

Find WorkSource locations and more than 140,000 job openings on WorkSourceWA.com

Note: The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently updated its “alternative measures of labor underutilization,” or U-6 rate, for states to include the third quarter of 2019. 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 U-6 unemployment rate for the third quarter of 2018 through the third quarter of 2019 for Washington state was 8.1 percent. This was lower compared to the 8.4 percent U-6 unemployment rate one year prior. The U.S. U-6 unemployment rate was 7.3 percent over the same time period.

2020 Publication dates for the Washington state Monthly Employment Reports 

Please note that the release dates for the January 2020 State & Seattle Metropolitan numbers as well as the County numbers will be
 March 4 and March 10, respectively

2020 monthly employment report publication dates

Preliminary Data for the month of

State and Seattle Metropolitan Division numbers released

All Other County numbers released

January 2020

March 4, 2020

March 10, 2020

February 2020

March 18, 2020

March 31, 2020

March 2020

April 15, 2020

April 21, 2020

April 2020

May 20, 2020

May 26, 2020

May 2020

June 17, 2020

June 23, 2020

June 2020

July 15, 2020

July 21, 2020

July 2020

August 19, 2020

August 25, 2020

August 2020

September 16, 2020

September 22, 2020

September 2020

October 14, 2020

October 20, 2020

October 2020

November 18, 2020

November 24, 2020

November 2020

December 16, 2020

December 22, 2020

December 2020

January 20, 2021

January 26, 2021


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