EDC Insights

May 15
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 March, 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 March 2018, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in King County was 3.4 percent. This is down from 3.7 percent, observed in February 2018. Twelve months ago, the unemploymentrate was 3.5 percent.
  • Nonfarm employment expanded by 9,200 from February to March 2018. There were an estimated 1,432,900 total nonfarm jobs in King County.
  • Eight industries added jobs over the month and three industries shed jobs. The largest gains were attributable to hiring in retail trade (up 2,400) and leisure and hospitality (up 2,100). The deepest losses were attributable to education and health services (down 600).
  • Total nonfarm employment in March 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 major industries detailed in this report. The largest gains were observed in retail trade (up 13,100), professional and business services (up 8,900) and leisure and hospitality (up 7,800).

Unemployment rates and labor force information
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for King County was 3.4 percent (preliminary) in March 2018. This is down from 3.7 percent observed the previous month (revised). For reference, the unemployment rate in March 2017 was 3.5 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.

March 2018 figures:

  • King County labor force: 1,263,429
  • Total employed: 1,220,798
  • Total unemployed: 42,631
  • Unemployment rate: 3.4%

Month-to-month, King County’s labor force contracted by 10,023 people. The number of employed people decreased by 5,033 and the number of active job seekers decreased by 4,990. Over-the-year, the labor force expanded by 38,729 people or 3.2 percent.

Unemployment rates, not seasonally adjusted
King County, January 2015 through March 2018
Source: Employment Security Department/WITS
The unemployment rate peaked at 9.5% in early 2010. In March 2018, the unemployment rate was 3.4 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 March 2018, 4,611 new claims were filed in King County and a total of 12,541 King County residents collected benefits from the state UI system.

Total nonfarm employment
Total nonfarm employment (not seasonally adjusted) in King County increased by 9,200 from February to March 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 1.43 million.

Nonfarm industry employment
King County, January 2015 through March 2018
Source: Employment Security Department/WITS
King County job growth continues to climb. From March 2017 to March 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.