EDC Insights

Jun 22
Economic Development Council

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

By Economic Development Council
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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 May 2017, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in King County was 3.1 percent. This is up from 2.8 percent observed in April. Twelve months ago, the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent.
  • Nonfarm employment in King County expanded by 5,600 from April to May 2017. In May, there were an estimated 1,395,900 total nonfarm jobs in King County.
  • Total nonfarm employment in May 2017 was 40,500 jobs above the level observed 12 months earlier. This represents a 3.0 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 11,200), information (up 6,000), and education and health services (up 5,900).
  • Manufacturing and wholesale trade both reported declining employment over the year (down 3,000 and 400 respectively).

Unemployment rates and labor force information
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for King County was 3.1 percent (preliminary) in May 2017.

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

The unemployment rate peaked at 9.5 percent in early 2010. In May 2017, the unemployment rate was 3.1 percent. 

This is up from 2.8 percent observed in April (revised). For reference, the unemployment rate in May 2016 was 3.8 percent. The unemployment rate has not been this low since 2008.
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. May 2017 figures are:

  • King County labor force: 1,227,456
  • Total employed: 1,189,091
  • Total unemployed: 38,685
  • Unemployment rate: 3.1%

Month-to-month, King County’s labor force contracted by 805 people. The number of employed people decreased by 4,972 and the number of active job seekers increased by 4,167, pushing the unemployment rate up. Over-the-year, the labor force expanded by 20,621 people or 1.7 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 May 2017, 4,796 new claims were filed in King County and a total of 13,289 King County residents collected benefits from the state UI system.

Total nonfarm employment
Total nonfarm employment (not seasonally adjusted) in King County expanded by 5,600 from April to May 2017. Over the year, employers in King County added 40,500 jobs or 3.0 percent. The tally of nonfarm jobs in King County was more than 1.39 million.

Nonfarm industry employment
King County, January 2014 through May 2017
Source: Washington Employment Security Department/WITS

King County job growth continues to climb. From May 2016 to May 2017, King County employment expanded by 40,500.

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.

Read the entire King County Labor Area Summary for May, 2017, including May industry employment figures. 

Learn more at the Washington Employment Security Department website.