Lo sentimos. Aún no hemos traducido esta página al español. Avísenos si desea que esto sea una prioridad y traduciremos la página lo antes posible.

We're sorry. We have not yet translated this page into Spanish. Please let us know if you want us to make it a priority and we will work to translate it as soon as possible.

Solicitar traducción Request translation

Gracias, su solicitud ha sido presentada. Thank you, your request has been submitted.


Contact:  media@esd.wa.gov

ESD Monthly Employment Report: Employment growth stalls in May; unemployment rate matches pre-pandemic low

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy lost 2,300 jobs in May.

The job losses were concentrated in retail trade, down 6,600 jobs, and in professional & business services, down 3,800 jobs. January 2021 was the last time Washington state, overall, lost jobs.

“In May, the labor market received some mixed messaging,” said the Employment Security Department’s (ESD) State Economist Paul Turek. “Household members continue to find jobs even as the pace of hiring appears to be slowing. In addition, total state employment has now reached pre-pandemic levels.”

Also in May, the preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate dropped slightly to 3.9%.

See the entire Monthly Employment Report on our website. It includes:

  • Preliminary job estimates for May from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • A confirmed preliminary estimate of 4.1% unemployment rate for April.
  • An adjustment to preliminary jobs data for April, with the estimated gain of 12,300 jobs revised upward to a gain of 17,600 jobs. The revised estimate represents a more accurate picture of developments in the job market for April by including additional information that was not available at the time of the previous month’s release.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 38,135 people in May, a decrease of 6,826 over the previous month. Decreases in construction, agriculture, and transportation & warehousing contributed to the overall decrease in paid claims over the month. 

National unemployment rate

The national unemployment remained constant in May at the preliminary rate of 3.6%. For comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) for May 2021 was 5.8%.

Labor supply continues to improve   

The state’s labor force in May was 4,036,300 – an increase of 13,000 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 increased by 11,200 over the same period. From May 2021 to May 2022, the state’s labor force increased by 141,800, while the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 68,900.

From April to May, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 163,000 to 158,900. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 51,600 to 48,300 over the same period.

Of the industry sectors, in May:

  • Eight expanded
  • Five contracted

Private sector employment decreased by 2,100 jobs while government employment decreased by 200 jobs. Table 2 shows a summary of the job gains and losses in all 13 industry sectors.

Annual payrolls expand for most industries

Washington gained an estimated 181,800 jobs from May 2021 – May 2022, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment rose by 6.3%, up an estimated 174,600 jobs, while public sector employment rose by 1.3%, up an estimated 7,200 jobs.

From May 2021 – May 2022, 12 major industry sectors expanded and one contracted

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

  • Leisure and hospitality, up 55,700 jobs.
  • Professional and business services, up 34,600 jobs.
  • Education and health services, up 23,300 jobs.

Mining and logging is the one industry sector that contracted, losing 300 jobs from May 2021 – May 2022.

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

May 2022

June 15

June 22

June 2022

July 22

July 28

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 from the second quarter 2021 through the first quarter 2022 was 9.1%. This was lower compared to the 10.1% U-6 unemployment rate for the annual 2021 period.

The U.S. U-6 unemployment rate from the second quarter 2021 through the first quarter 2022 was 8.4%.

Web links

Find a regional economist