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Employment Security Department


Contact:   media@esd.wa.gov

Washington employment grows again in June as businesses gradually reopen

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 71,000 jobs in June and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for June decreased from 15.1 percent to 9.8 percent according to the Employment Security Department (ESD). This was the biggest month-to-month drop in the Washington unemployment rate (5.3%) in ESD records going back at least to 1990.


Total Jobs (losses or gains)

Unemployment rate

2019 Unemployment Rate

March 2020


5.1 percent

4.5 percent

April 2020


16.3 percent*

4.4 percent

May 2020

+ 146,400*

15.1 percent

4.4 percent

June 2020


  9.8 percent

4.3 percent

*Revised from previous preliminary estimates

“The gain in nonfarm payroll employment coupled with the revision to May’s job gains are a welcome surprise and another step in the right direction,” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “That said, the road ahead looks to be bumpy as the virus continues to spread, creating a less predictable situation for the economy reopening.

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

The department also announced that May’s previously reported unemployment rate of 15.1 percent was confirmed. May’s preliminary estimated gain of 52,500 jobs was revised to a gain of 146,400 jobs.

The national unemployment rate decreased from 13.3 percent in May 2020 to 11.1 percent in June 2020. This is the first time in 70 months (since September 2014) that the Washington state unemployment rate is lower than the national rate. In June 2019, the national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.7 percent.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 565,800 people in June, a decrease of 149,742 over the previous month.

Labor force activity mostly a transfer of unemployed to employed

The state’s labor force in June was 3,951,000 – an increase of 5,500 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 75,200 over the same period.

From June 2019 through June 2020, the state’s labor force grew by 43,000 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region grew by 52,800.

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

From May 2020 to June 2020, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 593,900 to 388,400. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 246,600 to 165,400 over the same period.

Eleven industry sectors expanded, two sectors contracted in June

Private sector employment increased by 71,700 jobs while government employment decreased by 700 job. Provided below is a summary of the job gains and losses in all thirteen industry sectors.

              Industry sector                                                 Job gains/losses

Retail trade


Leisure & hospitality


Education and health services




Professional & business services


Other services


Transportation, warehousing and utilities


Financial activities


Wholesale trade




Mining & logging







Year-over-year change in payroll employment reflecting jobs lost in March and April

Washington lost an estimated 312,400 jobs from June 2019 through June 2020, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment fell by 9.2 percent, down an estimated 265,700 jobs, while public sector employment fell by 7.8 percent with a net loss of 46,700 jobs.

From June 2019 through June 2020, all thirteen major industry sectors contracted.

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

  • Leisure and hospitality down 135,800 jobs
  • Government down 46,700 jobs
  • Education and health services down 36,300 job 

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 proud partner in the statewide WorkSource system, which provides employment and training assistance to job seekers and businesses. While WorkSource centers are closed for in-person services during the COVID-19 outbreak, customers can still get help from WorkSource staff by phone and through the Live Chat feature on WorkSourceWA.com. The website provides access to thousands of Washington jobs and other employment resources. Chat agents cannot answer unemployment benefit questions.

Note: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently updated its “alternative measures of labor underutilization” for states to include annual averages for first quarter 2020. 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 U-6 unemployment rate for the first quarter 2020 for Washington state was 7.7 percent. This was higher compared to the 7.6 percent U-6 unemployment rate one quarter prior. The annual U.S. U-6 unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in first quarter 2020.

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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