EDC Insights

Nov 27
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 September, 2017. 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 October 2017, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in King County was 3.7 percent. This down from 3.9 percent, observed in September. Twelve months ago, the unemployment rate was also 3.7 percent.
  • Nonfarm employment expanded by 12,100 from September to October 2017. There were an estimated 1,428,200 total nonfarm jobs in King County.
  • The largest changes over the month were attributable to hiring in government (up 8,200), construction (up 2,300) and professional and business services (up 2,000). Five industries shed jobs over the month. The deepest losses were observed in leisure and hospitality (down 1,900).
  • Total nonfarm employment in October 2017 was 59,800 jobs above the level observed 12 months earlier. This represents a 4.4 percent increase in employment over the year.
  • Year-to-year growth was observed in all major industry sectors. The largest gains were observed in retail trade (up 10,200), professional and business services (up 9,000) and government (up 7,500).

Unemployment rates and labor force information:
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for King County was 3.7 percent (preliminary) in October 2017. This is down from 3.9 percent observed in September (revised). For reference, the unemployment rate in October 2016 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. October 2017 figures are:

  • King County labor force: 1,225,019
  • Total employed: 1,179,616
  • Total unemployed: 45,403
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7%

Month-to-month, King County’s labor force contracted by 17,287 people. The number of employed people decreased by 14,398 and the number of active job seekers decreased by 2,889. Over-the-year, the labor force expanded by 9,145 people or 0.8 percent.

Unemployment rates, not seasonally adjusted
King County, January 2014 through October, 2017
Source: Employment Security Department
The unemployment rate peaked at 9.5% in early 2010. In October 2017, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.

Washington state:
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Washington state dropped from 4.4 percent in September (revised) to 4.2 percent in October (preliminary). The statewide labor force increased by 81,373 (2.2 percent) over the year. For comparison, the statewide unemployment rate 12 months ago was 5.0 percent.

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 4.0 percent (revised) in September to 3.8 percent (preliminary) in October. Twelve months ago, the unemployment rate was also 3.8 percent.

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 October 2017, 5,174 new claims were filed in King County and a total of 12,745 King County residents collected benefits from the state UI system.

Total nonfarm employment:
Total nonfarm employment (not seasonally adjusted) in King County increased by 12,100 from September to October 2017. Over the year, employers in King County added 59,800 jobs or 4.4 percent. The tally of nonfarm jobs in King County was over 1.42 million.

Nonfarm industry employment
King County, January 2014 through October 2017
Source: Employment Security Department

King County job growth continues to climb. From October 2016 to October 2017, King County employment expanded by 59,800.

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.