Seattle Press
Community Log & News Digest
Washington economy added back jobs during May
OLYMPIA – Washington’s economy added 52,500 jobs in May and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for May decreased from 16.3 percent to 15.1 percent according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).
MonthTotal Jobs(1)2020(2)2019(2)
March 2020-25,4005.1 percent4.5 percent
April 2020-457,800*16.3 percent*4.4 percent
May 202052,50015.1 percent4.4 percent
(1)losses or gains (2)Unemployment Rate

"While the unemployment rate in Washington fell in May, it remained historically high as the state continued to navigate the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Paul Turek, economist for the department. “Over the past month, a small portion of the jobs lost during the first two months of the pandemic were recovered as the economy begins to re-open across the state.”

The Employment Security Department released the preliminary job estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its Monthly Employment Report.

The department also announced that April’s previously reported unemployment rate of 15.4 percent was revised upward to 16.3 percent. April’s preliminary estimated loss of 527,000 jobs was revised to a loss of 457,800 jobs.

The national unemployment rate decreased from 14.7 percent in April 2020 to 13.3 percent in May 2020. In May 2019, the national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.6 percent.

Employment Security paid regular unemployment insurance benefits to 715,542 people in May, an increase of 145,195 over the previous month.

Labor force decreased across the state

The state’s labor force in May was 3,943,500 – a decrease of 19,800 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force decreased by 8,500 over the same period.

From May 2019 through May 2020, the state’s labor force grew by 45,300 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region decreased by 17,900.

The labor force is the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16. From April 2020 to May 2020, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 645,100 to 594,300. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed decreased from 247,900 to 246,300 over the same period. Ten industry sectors expanded and three industry sectors contracted in May

Private sector employment increased by 72,600 and government employment decreased by 20,100. Provided below is a summary of the job gains and losses in all thirteen industry sectors.

Industry sectorJob gains/losses
Leisure and hospitality22,600
Education and health services7,000
Professional and business services4,100
Retail trade3,500
Wholesale trade1,200
Other services1,000
Financial services500
Mining and logging100
Transportation, warehousing and utilities-600

Year-over-year growth in payroll employment ceases, now turns negative

Washington lost an estimated 408,200 jobs from May 2019 through May 2020, not seasonally adjusted. The private sector contracted by 12.5 percent, down an estimated 360,100 jobs, while public sector employment contracted 8.0 percent with a net loss of 48,100 jobs.

From May 2019 through May 2020, twelve major industry sectors contracted while only the information sector added (+1,400) jobs.

The three industry sectors with the largest employment losses year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted, were:

Leisure and hospitality down 160,300 jobs

Education and health services down 55,900 jobs

Government down 48,100 jobs

COVID-19 impacts

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had impact on the May 2020 survey data. The household survey measures labor force status, including unemployment. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment by industry.

Check out additional COVID-19 related information and FAQs from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Labor market information

ESD has new labor market information and tools, including interactive Tableau graphics to highlight popular information and data. Check it out!

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