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Contact:   media@esd.wa.gov    

ESD Monthly Employment Report: Payroll employment growth surges in February

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 31,700 jobs in February. In February, the preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.3%.

“The February increase in state employment was the largest monthly increase since last July,” said the Employment Security Department’s (ESD) Economist Paul Turek. “The gains were broad-based with just about every major industrial sector having increased its payrolls over the month.”

The Monthly Employment Report also includes:

  • Preliminary job estimates for February from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Confirmation of the preliminary 4.4% unemployment rate for January.
  • An adjustment to preliminary jobs data for January, with the estimated gain of 5,700 jobs revised to a gain of 3,000 jobs. The revised estimate represents a more accurate picture of developments in the job market for January by including additional information that was not available at the time of the previous month’s release.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 55,819 people in February, a decrease of 10,976 over the previous month. Decreases in the claims from the construction, agriculture, and accommodation and food services sectors contributed to the overall decrease in paid claims over the month.

National unemployment rate
The national unemployment rate dropped from 4% in January to the preliminary rate of 3.8% in February. For comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) for February 2021 was 6.2%.

Workers show more signs of stepping back into the job market   

The state’s labor force in February was 3,982,400 – an increase of 22,000 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 10,500 over the same period. From February 2021 to February 2022, the state’s labor force increased by 111,300 while the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 43,000.

From January to February, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 173,900 to 170,800. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 60,700 to 58,800 over the same period.

Of the industry sectors, in February:

  • Twelve expanded.
  • One was unchanged.

Private sector employment increased by 24,400 jobs while government employment increased by 7,300 jobs. Table 2 shows a summary of the job gains and losses in all 13 industry sectors.

Annual payrolls expand for all industries

Washington gained an estimated 191,900 jobs from February 2021 – February 2022, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment rose by 6.4%, up an estimated 172,700 jobs, while public sector employment rose by 3.5%, up an estimated 19,200 jobs.

From February 2021 – February 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 72,000 jobs.
  • Professional and business services up 31,200 jobs.
  • Government up 19,200

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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