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Contact:   media@esd.wa.gov    

ESD Monthly Employment Report: Payroll employment increased in January despite Omicron

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 5,700 jobs in January. Between December and January, the preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.4%.

“The state had to deal with renewed COVID challenges in January, resulting in slower but positive employment growth,” said the Employment Security Department’s (ESD) Economist Paul Turek. “Annual payroll benchmark revisions suggest that recent momentum in hiring remains strong.”

The Monthly Employment Report also includes:

  • Preliminary job estimates for December from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Confirmation of the preliminary 4.5% unemployment rate for December.
  • An adjustment to preliminary jobs data for December, with the estimated gain of 14,000 jobs revised to a gain of 13,600 jobs. The revised estimate represents a more accurate picture of developments in the job market for December by including additional information that was not available at the time of the previous month’s release.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 66,795 people in January, an increase of 8,208 over the previous month. Seasonal layoffs in construction and continued layoffs in the accommodation and food services sector were the major contributors to this increase in paid claims.

National unemployment rate
The national unemployment rate rose slightly from 3.9% in December to the preliminary rate of 4.0% in January. For comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) for January 2021 was 6.4%.

State labor force edging back to pre-pandemic levels  

The state’s labor force in January was 3,961,100 – an increase of 8,200 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 decreased by 19,200 over the same . From January 2021 to January 2022, the state’s labor force increased by 125,900 while the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region decreased by 2,000.

From December to January, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 176,900 to 174,700. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 72,100 to 61,000 over the same period.

Of the industry sectors, in January:

  • Nine expanded.
  • Four contracted.

Private sector employment increased by 4,500 jobs while government employment increased by 1,200 jobs. Table 2 shows a summary of the job gains and losses in all 13 industry sectors.

Payroll employment recovery is progressing

Washington gained an estimated 186,700 jobs from January 2021 – January 2022, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment rose by 6.2%, up an estimated 164,200 jobs, while public sector employment rose by 4.1%, up an estimated 22,500 jobs.

From January 2021 – January 2022, all 13 major industry sectors expanded 
The three industry sectors with the largest employment gains year over year, not seasonally adjusted, were:

  • Leisure and hospitality up 83,000 jobs.
  • Professional and business services up 24,800 jobs.
  • Government up 22,500

Table 1: Washington’s total jobs

*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.        

Table 2: Job gains and losses by industry

Monthly Employment Report publication schedule for 2022

Preliminary data for the month of:

State and Seattle Metropolitan Division data released

All other county data released

January 2022

March 2

March 8

February 2022

March 16

March 22

March 2022

April 13

April 19

April 2022

May 18

May 24

May 2022

June 15

June 21

June 2022

July 20

July 26

July 2022

Aug. 17

Aug. 23

August 2022

Sept. 14

Sept. 20

September 2022

Oct. 19

Oct. 25

October 2022

Nov. 16

Nov. 22

November 2022

Dec. 14

Dec. 20

December 2022

Jan. 18, 2023

Jan. 24, 2023

Labor market information

See more 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.  WorkSourceWA provides access to thousands of Washington jobs and other employment resources. WorkSource staff can connect job seekers with employers hiring right now in their community, identify training opportunities or help them brush up on application and interview skills. Job seekers and employers can find their nearest WorkSource center on the WorkSource office locator page.

U-6 unemployment rate

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) updated its “alternative measures of labor underutilization” for states to include annual averages for 2021. 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 Washington state U-6 unemployment rate for 2021 was 10.1%. This was lower compared to the 11.7% U-6 unemployment rate for the fourth quarter 2020 through the third quarter 2021.

The U.S. U-6 unemployment rate for 2021 was 9.4%.

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