WA Payroll Employment Grows in October; Unemployment Rate Increases to 3.8%


OLYMPIA, WA – Washington State’s economy gained an estimated 7,900 jobs (seasonally adjusted) and the monthly unemployment rate rose from 3.6% to 3.8% in October.

“Jobs grew at a faster pace than what was observed over the previous three months,” according to Employment Security Department Chief Labor Economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman. “The demand for workers remains elevated, and the trend toward more modest job growth continued.”

From ESD:

Visit ESD’s website to view the entire Monthly Employment Report for October.

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 54,664 people in October, an increase of 591 paid claims over the previous month. Increases in paid claims within construction, agriculture, and professional and business services contributed to the overall increase in claims over the month.

Updated state preliminary data for September 2023

  • The preliminary estimated gain of 7,900 jobs in September was revised to a gain of 4,900 jobs.
  • The seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate in September was confirmed at 3.6%.

National unemployment rate
The national unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.9% in October. For comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) for October 2022 was 3.7%.

Labor force showed little change
The state’s labor force in October numbered 4,056,188 – a decrease of 4,950 people from the previous month.

In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force decreased by 3,882 over the same period.

Labor force is defined as the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16. Layoffs and labor force participation are not necessarily connected. When people are laid off but still seeking work, they remain a part of the labor force. A drop in the labor force means people have left work and haven’t been actively seeking employment for more than four weeks.

From October 2022 to October 2023, the state’s labor force increased by 41,564, while the labor force in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 36,261 over the same period.

From September to October 2023, the number of people who were unemployed statewide increased from 146,934 to 153,526. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed increased from 59,162 to 61,194 over the same period.

Most major industries continued to add jobs
Private sector employment increased by 4,800 jobs from September to October while government employment increased by 3,100 jobs.

Of the industry sectors in October:

  • Seven expanded.
  • Four contracted.
  • Two were unchanged.

Here are some key increases and decreases:

  • Private education and health services employment increased by 3,700, with 2,000 jobs added in health services and social assistance.
  • Government employment increases were concentrated in local government.
  • Retail trade employment increased by 2,500, with the largest observed gains attributable to other retail trade (1,000) and food and beverage stores (800).
  • Employment in the information sector fell by 1,600, with losses observed in publishing industries except internet (-2,400) and software publishers (-1,800).
  • Employment in financial activities decreased by 1,800 overall. Losses were concentrated in finance and insurance, which decreased by 2,000.

Annual employment growth most evident in government, and education and health services
Washington gained an estimated 59,100 jobs from October 2022 to October 2023, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment rose by 1.2%, up an estimated 36,200 jobs, while public sector employment rose by 4.0% — up an estimated 22,900 jobs.

From October 2022 – October 2023, nine major industry sectors expanded, three decreased and one remained unchanged
The three industry sectors with the largest employment gains year over year, not seasonally adjusted, were:

  • Government, up 22,900 jobs.
  • Education and health services, up 19,000 jobs.
  • Leisure and hospitality, up 11,600 jobs.

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

  • Information, down 5,000 jobs.
  • Construction, down 4,100 jobs.

Table 1 October 2023

*Revised from previous preliminary estimates. Preliminary monthly estimates for job losses or gains are based on a small Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey. Actual figures reported the following month are based on a more complete survey.

Table 2: Job gains and losses by industry for October

Table 2 Oct. 2023

Labor market information

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