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Employment Security Department

Employment Security Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 14, 2020

Contact:   media@esd.wa.gov

Employment grows modestly in September

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 2,400 jobs in September and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for September decreased from 8.4 percent (adjusted) to 7.8 percent according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).


Total Jobs (losses or gains)

Unemployment rate

2019 Unemployment Rate

March 2020

-  28,300

5.1 percent

4.5 percent

April 2020


16.3 percent*

4.4 percent

May 2020

+ 90,500*

15.1 percent

4.4 percent

June 2020


10.0 percent*

4.3 percent

July 2020

+ 62,400

 10.2 percent*

4.2 percent

August 2020

+  69,000*

  8.4 percent*

4.2 percent

September 2020

+    2,400

  7.8 percent

4.1 percent

*Revised from previous preliminary estimates


“Payroll growth slowed markedly in September,” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “A shift to remote learning apparently led to less government hiring than usual this time of year, which showed up largely in local education.

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 August’s previously reported unemployment rate of 8.5 percent was revised slightly downward to 8.4 percent. August’s preliminary estimated gain of 19,800 jobs was revised to a gain of 69,000 jobs.

The national unemployment rate decreased from 8.4 percent in August to 7.9 percent in September 2020. In September 2019, the national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.5 percent.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 553,287 people in September, an increase of 47,719 over the previous month.

More individuals exit the labor force

The state’s labor force in September was 3,901,400– a decrease of 55,800 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force decreased by 19,600 over the same period.

From September 2019 through September 2020, the state’s labor force decreased by 38,700 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region decreased by 32,100.

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

From August 2020 to September 2020, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 333,600 to 303,400. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 126,400 to 119,900 over the same period.

Eight industry sectors expanded and five sectors contracted in September

Private sector employment increased by 12,100 jobs while government employment decreased by 9,700 jobs. Provided below is a summary of the job gains and losses in all thirteen industry sectors.

              Industry sector                                                 Job gains/losses

Leisure & hospitality

+  6,700


+  2,700

Professional & business services

+  2,000


+  1,900

Education & health services

+     900

Retail trade

+     600

Financial activities

+     300

Mining and logging

+     100

Other services

-      100

Transportation, warehousing & utilities

-      400

Wholesale trade

-        700


-     1,900


-     9,700


Most payroll jobs lost year-over-year have been in leisure and hospitality

Washington lost an estimated 203,900 jobs from September 2019 through September 2020, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment fell by 6.1 percent, down an estimated 179,100 jobs, while public sector employment fell by 4.3 percent with a net loss of 24,800 jobs.

From September 2019 through September 2020, eleven major industry sectors contracted while two industry sector expanded.

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

  • Leisure and hospitality down 90,100 jobs
  • Manufacturing down 27,100 jobs
  • Government down 24,800 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 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 second quarter 2020 for Washington state was 10.9 percent. This was higher compared to the 7.7 percent U-6 unemployment rate one quarter prior. The annual U.S. U-6 unemployment rate was 10.4 percent in second 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.


Web links

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