State job growth softens in March

Washington state’s economy gained an estimated 1,500 jobs (seasonally adjusted) in March.

“Non-farm payroll employment growth slowed in March after having expanded at a rapid pace in recent months,” said Employment Security Department (ESD) state economist Paul Turek.

“The pause in hiring could either be temporary or a sign that labor market conditions are loosening. The next months ahead should provide further evidence of the direction the labor market is headed.”

ESD paid unemployment insurance benefits to 64,055 people in March, an increase of 5,293 paid claims over the previous month. Increases in paid claims within the administrative and support services sector contributed to the overall increase in paid claims over the month.

Clallam County’s unemployment rate for March 2023 was 6.4 percent — tied for 13-highest among the state’s 39 counties.

The national unemployment rate decreased slightly in March from 3.6 percent to 3.5 percent; for comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) for March 2022 was 3.6 percent.

The preliminary estimated gain of 15,300 jobs for February 2023 was revised upwards to a gain of 15,400 jobs.

The seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate was confirmed at 4.6 percent.

The state’s labor force in March numbered 4,047,700 — an increase of 12,100 people from the previous month.

Labor force is defined as the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16. Layoffs and labor force participation are not necessarily connected.

When people are laid off but still seeking work, they remain a part of the labor force. A drop in the labor force means people have left work and haven’t been actively seeking employment for more than four weeks.

From March 2022 to March 2023, the state’s labor force increased by 44,700.

From February to March, the number of people who were unemployed statewide decreased from 185,500 to 180,700.

Private sector employment increased by 300 jobs while government employment increased by 1,200 jobs.

Of the industry sectors in March, nine expanded, two contracted and two remained constant.

The leisure and hospitality sector had the largest increase (+1,800) in jobs in March, led by 1,000 jobs gained in food services and drinking establishments. The education and health services sector had the second largest increase (+1,400) in jobs in March, all in area of social assistance. The information sector saw 700 jobs added by software publishers.

Construction employment fell by 3,600, with 2,700 jobs lost by specialty trade contractors. Professional and business services employment decreased by 2,300 overall, with 2,100 jobs lost in administrative and support services.

Annual employment growth strong but moderating

Washington state gained an estimated 113,400 jobs from March 2022 to March 2023, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment rose by 3.3 percent, up an estimated 95,900 jobs, while public sector employment rose by 3.1 percent — up an estimated 17,500 jobs.