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OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy gained 3,500 jobs in February and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for February was 3.8 percent according to the Employment Security Department. This is of course before the state experienced significant impact from the current COVID-19 outbreak. 

“Hiring remained solid in February prior to concerns over the COVID-19 virus outbreak” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “Our record low unemployment rate is unlikely to last, however, as the economic impacts from containment efforts become more clear.”

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 January’s previously reported unemployment rate of 3.9 was confirmed. January’s preliminary estimated gain of 6,800 jobs was revised to a gain of 7,700 jobs.

The national unemployment rate (preliminary) was 3.5 percent in February 2020. In February 2019, the national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.8 percent.

Employment Security paid unemployment insurance benefits to 67,681 people in February.

Workers return to labor force after last month’s exit.

The state’s labor force in February was 3,962,600 – an increase of 7,400 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 100 over the same period.

From February 2019 through February 2020, the state’s labor force grew by 113,500 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 37,400.

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

Five industry sectors expanded and nine contracted

Private sector employment increased by 2,800 while the public sector increased by 700 jobs in February. This month’s report shows the largest private job growth occurred in construction up 2,800 jobs and professional & business services up 2,500 jobs. Also posting increases were information up 500 jobs and other services up 200 jobs. The eight industries that posted losses were leisure and hospitality down 900 jobs, manufacturing down 700 jobs, wholesale trade down 600 jobs, transportation, warehousing & utilities down 500 jobs, financial activities down 200 jobs and retail trade, mining & logging and education & health services down 100 jobs.

Year-over-year growth in payroll employment occurs for most industries

Washington added an estimated 100,900 new jobs from February 2019 through February 2020, not seasonally adjusted. The private sector grew by 3.3 percent, up an estimated 91,400 jobs, while public sector employment rose 1.6 percent with a net gain of 9,500 jobs.

From February 2019 through February 2020, 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:

  • Professional & business services with 18,600 new jobs
  • Construction with 16,800 new jobs
  • Leisure & hospitality with 15,800 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 annual averages for 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 2019 for Washington state was 7.6 percent. This was lower compared to the 8.4 percent U-6 unemployment rate one year prior. The annual U.S. U-6 unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in 2019.

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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