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ESD Monthly Employment Report: Payroll employment rises in December; unemployment rate drops

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 14,000 jobs in December. Between November and December, the preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent.

“The recovery of Washington state jobs lost during the COVID crisis is still underway,” said the Employment Security Department’s (ESD) Economist Paul Turek. “The drop in the unemployment rate to a pandemic-era low underscores the tightness in the labor market.”

The Monthly Employment Report also includes:

  • Preliminary job estimates for December from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Confirmation of the preliminary 4.7 percent unemployment rate for November.

  • An adjustment to preliminary jobs data for November, with the preliminary estimated gain of 12,800 jobs revised to a gain of 17,800 jobs. The revised estimate represents a more accurate picture of developments in the job market for November by including additional information that was not available at the time of the previous month’s release

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 58,587 people in December, an increase of 7,227 over the previous month. Winter layoffs in industries that rely on seasonal hires was a major contributor to this increase in paid claims.

National unemployment rate The national unemployment rate dropped from 4.2 percent in November to the preliminary rate of 3.9 percent in December. For comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) for December 2020, was 6.7 percent.

State labor force grows again in December

The state’s labor force in December was 3,952,900 – an increase of 15,000 people from the previous month. Labor force is defined as the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 7,600 over the same period. From December 2020 to December 2021, the state’s labor force increased by 122,500 while the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 19,200.

From November to December, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 185,700 to 176,900. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 76,700 to 72,100 over the same period.

Of the industry sectors, in December:

  • 10 expanded.

  • Two contracted

  • One was unchanged.

Private sector employment increased by 10,300 jobs while government employment increased by 3,700 jobs. Table 2 shows a summary of the job gains and losses in all 13 industry sectors.

Payroll employment shows broad-based growth in 2021

Washington gained an estimated 178,100 jobs from December 2020 – December 2021, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment rose by 5.9 percent, up an estimated 159,700 jobs, while public sector employment rose by 3.4 percent, up an estimated 18,400 jobs.

From December 2020 – December 2021, 12 major industry sectors expanded and one contracted The three industry sectors with the largest employment gains year over year, not seasonally adjusted, were:

  • Leisure and hospitality up 78,600 jobs.

  • Government up 18,400

  • Professional and business services up 17,800 jobs.

The industry sector that contracted year over year, not seasonally adjusted, was mining ad logging, down 100 jobs.

Table 1: Washington’s total jobs

*Revised from previous preliminary estimates. Preliminary monthly estimates for jobs losses or gains are based on a small Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey while actual figures reported the following month are based on a more complete survey.

Table 2: Job gains and losses by industry

Monthly Employment Report publication schedule for 2022

Labor market information

See more labor market information and tools, including interactive Tableau graphics to highlight popular information and data.


Employment Security is a proud partner in the statewide WorkSource system, which provides employment and training assistance to job seekers and businesses. provides access to thousands of Washington jobs and other employment resources. WorkSource staff can connect job seekers with employers hiring right now in their community, identify training opportunities or help them brush up on application and interview skills. Job seekers and employers can find their nearest WorkSource center on the WorkSource office locator page.

U-6 unemployment rate

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) updated its “alternative measures of labor underutilization” for states to include annual averages for 2021. One such alternative measure is the U-6 rate, which considers not only the unemployed population in the official “U-3” unemployment rate, but also marginally attached workers and those employed part time for economic reasons. The U-6 rate is defined by BLS as the “total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.” This U-6 measure measures the “unemployed, underemployed, and those who are not looking but who want a job.”

The Washington state U-6 unemployment rate for the fourth quarter 2020 through the third quarter 2021 was 11.7 percent. This was lower compared to the 13.5 percent U-6 unemployment rate for the second quarter 2020 through the first quarter 2021.

The U.S. U-6 unemployment rate for the fourth quarter 2020 through the third quarter 2021 was 10.4 percent.



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