Unemployment rate dropped to near-record low in March
Contact: Paul Turek, labor economist, 360-407-2306
Bill Tarrow, deputy communications director, 360-902-9376
OLYMPIA – Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 4.9 to 4.7 percent in March – the lowest rate since August 2007, according to the state Employment Security Department.
"Washington has one of the better growing economies in the nation,” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “Strong job growth has pushed the unemployment rate down further as more workers find jobs.”
Washington employers added 10,700 nonfarm jobs in March. The department released the seasonally adjusted, preliminary job estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its March Monthly Employment Report.
In March last year, the statewide unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.
The national unemployment rate was 4.5 percent this March and 3.3 percent in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area.
Employment Security paid unemployment insurance benefits to 65,733 people in March.
Labor force continues to grow in Washington
The state’s labor force rose to 3.68 million — an increase of 1,500 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 2,500 over the same period.
From March 2016 through March 2017, the state’s labor force grew by 73,200 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 41,700.
The labor force is the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16.
Ten sectors expand, three contract
Private sector employment increased by 11,400 and government employment decreased by 700 jobs in March.
This month’s report shows the greatest job growth occurred in leisure and hospitality up 2,700, education and health services up 2,500 and professional and businesses services up 2,300 new jobs. In addition, retail trade and transportation, warehousing and utilities added 1,400 jobs each; construction increased 900; financial services added 700; other services and information gained 500 each; and mining and logging rose 100.
Wholesale trade faced the biggest reduction in March, losing 1,400 jobs. Government cut 700 and manufacturing shed 200.
Year-over-year growth remains strong
Washington has added an estimated 92,000 new jobs from March 2016 through March 2017, not seasonally adjusted. The private sector grew by 3.1 percent or 80,200 jobs, and the public sector increased by 2.1 percent, adding 11,800 jobs.
From March 2016 through March 2017, 12 of the state’s 13 industry sectors added jobs. Manufacturing (-5,800) was the only sector to report job losses.
The three industry sectors with the largest employment gains year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted, were:
- Education and health services with 16,900 new jobs;
- Retail trade with 15,900 new jobs; and
- Leisure and hospitality with 13,000 new jobs.
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Note: The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently updated its “alternative measures of labor underutilization,” or U-6 rate, for states to include the fourth quarter of 2016. 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 annual U-6 rate for Washington through fourth quarter 2016 was 10.3 percent compared to the national rate of 9.6 percent. Washington’s U-6 rate is the lowest it has been since 2009.
- Monthly employment report
- Labor market information website
- Historical data (Excel spreadsheet)
- Employment Security website