EDC Insights

Apr 04
Economic Development Council


By Economic Development Council
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Below is a summary of the Washington State Employment Security Department's King County Labor Area Summary for February, 2018. Read the full report.

By: Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Ph.D., Regional Labor Economist 
Washington State Employment Security Department 
Workforce Information and Technology Services Division 
Website: esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo


  • In February 2018, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in King County was 3.7 percent. This is down from 4.1 percent, observed in January 2018. Twelve months ago, the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent.
  • Nonfarm employment expanded by 5,600 from January to February 2018. There were an estimated 1,423,300 total nonfarm jobs in King County.
  • Six industries added jobs over the month and six industries shed jobs. The largest gains were attributable to hiring in education and health services (up 2,500) and professional and business services (2,100). The deepest losses were attributable to government (down 600).
  • Total nonfarm employment in February 2018 was 54,700 jobs above the level observed 12 months earlier. This represents a 4.0 percent increase in employment over the year.
  • Year-to-year growth was observed in all but one major industry sector. The largest gains were observed in retail trade (up 1,900), professional and business services (up 8,800) and leisure and hospitality (up 8,200). Manufacturing was the only industry experiencing declining employment over the year (down 1,900).

Unemployment rates and labor force information
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for King County was 3.7 percent (preliminary) in February 2018. This is down from 4.1 percent observed the previous month (revised). For reference, the unemployment rate in February 2017 was 3.6 percent.

The ‘Great Recession’ gripped Washington in mid-2008. Through the course of 2008 and 2009, the unemployment rate rapidly increased, reaching a peak rate of 9.5 percent in the beginning of 2010. Since then, the elevated rate has diminished.

February 2018 figures:

  • King County labor force: 1,272,915
  • Total employed: 1,225,543
  • Total unemployed: 47,372
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7%

Month-to-month, King County’s labor force expanded by 19,101 people. The number of employed people increased by 22,968 and the number of active job seekers decreased by 3,867. Over-the-year, the labor force expanded by 49,359 people or 4.0 percent.

Unemployment rate King County, not seasonally adjusted, January 2015 through February 2018
Source: Employment Security Department/WITS
The unemployment rate peaked at 9.5% in early 2010. In February 2018, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.

Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claims
UI claims activity peaked in May 2009 (49,316 continued claims were counted that month) and has been on a downward trend ever since. In February 2018, 4,535 new claims were filed in King County and a total of 13,062 King County residents collected benefits from the state UI system.

Total nonfarm employment
Total nonfarm employment (not seasonally adjusted) in King County increased by 5,600 from January to February 2018. Over the year, employers in King County added 54,700 jobs or 4.0 percent. The tally of nonfarm jobs in King County was over 1.42 million.

Nonfarm industry employment King County, January 2015 through February 2018
Source: Employment Security Department/WITS

King County job growth continues to climb. From February 2017 to February 2018, King County employment expanded by 54,700.

King County employment levels peaked in 2008 and reached their lowest levels since the start of the economic downturn in early 2010. Average annual total nonfarm employment fell by 6.4 percent from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, employment levels were roughly equivalent to 2005 levels. Employment since 2010 has expanded for all of King County’s major private sector industries and has exceeded the 2008 level since 2012.

Washington state
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Washington state decreased from 5.4 percent in January (revised) to 5.3 percent in February 2018 (preliminary). The statewide labor force increased by 78,665 (2.1 percent) over the year. For comparison, the  statewide unemployment rate 12 months ago was 5.4 percent.

The February forecast by Washington’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council predicts that the statewide unemployment rate will average 4.47 percent in 2018 and will dip to 4.14 percent in 2019. See www.erfc.wa.gov for more information.

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett Metropolitan Division (MD)
The Seattle-Bellevue-Everett MD combines labor force information for Snohomish and King Counties. During the current economic downturn, King County’s unemployment rate has consistently run below that of Snohomish County. The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the combined MD decreased from 4.2 percent (revised) in January to 3.8 percent (preliminary) in February. Twelve months ago, the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent.

New! City level estimates
The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Employment Security Department publish labor force information for cities with a population of 25,000 or more. Unemployment rates for selected cities can be found at www.esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/labor-force.