EDC Insights

Mar 16
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 January, 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 January 2018, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in King County was 4.2 percent. This is up from 3.6 percent, observed in December 2017. Twelve months ago, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.
  • Nonfarm employment contracted by 14,400 from December 2017 to January 2018. There were an estimated 1,417,400 total nonfarm jobs in King County.
  • Three industries added jobs over the month and nine industries shed jobs. The largest gains were attributable to hiring in the manufacturing sector (up 600) and the deepest losses were attributable to the aftermath of holiday hiring in retail (down 4,700) and leisure and hospitality (down 3,900).
  • Total nonfarm employment in January 2018 was 54,900 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 most major industry sectors. The largest gains were observed in retail trade (up 10,800), construction (up 8,000) and in leisure and hospitality and professional and business services (up 7,400 and 7,300 respectively). Manufacturing was the only industry experiencing declining employment over the year (-1,200)

Unemployment rates and labor force information"

The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for King County was 4.2 percent (preliminary) in January 2018. This is up from 3.6 percent observed the previous month (revised). For reference, the unemployment rate in January 2017 was 3.7 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.

January 2018 figures are:

  • King County labor force: 1,256,416
  • Total employed: 1,203,745
  • Total unemployed: 52,671
  • Unemployment rate: 4.2%

Month-to-month, King County’s labor force expanded by 17,444 people. The number of employed people increased by 8,894 and the number of active job seekers increased by 8,550. Over-the-year, the labor force expanded by 49,623 people or 4.1 percent.

Unemployment rates, not seasonally adjusted - King County, January 2015 through January 2018
Source: Employment Security Department/WTIS


The unemployment rate peaked at 9.5% in early 2010. In January 2018, the unemployment rate was 4.2%. 

Washington State
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Washington state increased from 4.9 percent in December 2017 (revised) to 5.6 percent in January 2018 (preliminary). The statewide labor force increased by 77,174 (2.1 percent) over the year. For comparison, the statewide unemployment rate 12 months ago was also 5.6 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 increased from 3.7 percent (revised) in December to 4.3 percent (preliminary) in January. 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.

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 January 2018, 5,803 new claims were filed in King County and a total of 14,025 King County residents collected benefits from the state UI system.

Total nonfarm employment
Total nonfarm employment (not seasonally adjusted) in King County decreased by 14,400 from December 2017 to January 2018. Over the year, employers in King County added 54,900 jobs or 4.0 percent. The tally of nonfarm jobs in King County was over 1.41 million.

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

King County job growth continues to climb. From January 2017 to January 2018, King County employment expanded by 54,900.