EDC Insights

Nov 01
Economic Development Council

Washington ESD's King County Economic Snapshot: September, 2017

By Economic Development Council
Bookmark and Share

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 September 2017, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in King County was 3.9 percent. This up from 3.8 percent, observed in August. Twelve months ago, the unemployment rate was also 3.9 percent.
  • Nonfarm employment expanded by 1,300 from August to September. There were an estimated
    1,410,500 total nonfarm jobs in King County in September 2017.
  • The largest changes over the month were attributable to hiring in government (up 7,700), education and health services and wholesale trade (each up 400). Eight industries shed jobs over the month. The deepest losses were observed in retail trade (down 2,400) and leisure and hospitality (down 1,700).
  • Total nonfarm employment in September 2017 was 38,500 jobs above the level observed 12 months earlier. This represents a 2.8 percent increase in employment over the year.
  • Year-to-year growth was observed in all major industry sectors. The largest gains were observed in government (up 8,000), information (up 6,300) and retail trade (up 5,300).

Unemployment rates and labor force information
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for King County was 3.9 percent (preliminary) in September 2017. This is up from 3.8 percent observed in August (revised). For reference, the unemployment rate in September 2016 was 3.9 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. 

Unemployment rates, not seasonally adjusted
King County, January 2014 through September 2017
Source: Washington Employment Security Department/WTIS


The unemployment rate peaked at 9.5% in early 2010. In September 2017, the unemployment rate was 3.9 percent. 

September 2017 figures: 

  • King County Labor Force: 1,243,831
  • Total Employed: 1,195,246
  • Total unemployed: 48,585
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9 %

Month-to-month, King County’s labor force expanded by 10,089 people. The number of employed people increased by 8,639 and the number of active job seekers increased by 1,450. Over-the-year, the labor force expanded by 23,673 people or 1.9 percent.

Unemployment 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 September 2017, 4,512 new claims were filed in King County and a total of 12,482 King County residents collected benefits from the state UI system.

Total nonfarm employment
Total nonfarm employment (not seasonally adjusted) in King County increased by 1,300 from August to September 2017. Over the year, employers in King County added 38,500 jobs or 2.8 percent. The tally of nonfarm jobs in King County was over 1.41 million.



King County job growth continues to climb. From September 2016 to September 2017, King County employment expanded by 38,500.  

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 dropped from 4.5 percent in August (revised) to 4.4  percent in September (preliminary). The statewide labor force increased by 107,933 (2.9 percent) over the year. For comparison, the statewide unemployment rate 12 months ago was 5.1 percent.

The September forecast by Washington’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council predicts that the statewide unemployment rate will average 5.02 percent in 2017 (this is a slight upward revision from the June forecast) and will dip to 4.46 percent in 2018. 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 3.9 percent (revised) to 4.0 percent (preliminary) in September. Twelve months ago, the unemployment rate was also 4.0 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.  

Learn more at the Washington Employment Security Department website.