State unemployment rises to 4.2%

Washington state’s economy gained an estimated 7,700 jobs (seasonally adjusted) and the monthly unemployment rate rose from 4.0% to 4.2% in December.

“December’s job growth was the strongest since June 2023 and marked five consecutive months of job growth, after revisions to November data. Despite strong job gains, the unemployment rate inched,” said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Employment Security Department’s (ESD) chief labor economist.

“The overall trend in 2023 has been the slowing of a still-strong labor market after the tumultuous ups and downs of COVID-19 economic recovery.”

The national unemployment rate remained constant at 3.7% in December. For comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) for December 2022 was 3.5%.

Clallam County’s unemployment rate for December 2023 was 6.3% — tied for 13th-highest among Washington state’s 39 counties.

The state’s labor force in December numbered 4,059,627 – an increase of 1,907 people from the previous month. From December 2022 to December 2023, the state’s labor force increased by 44,341.

From November to December 2023, the number of people who were unemployed statewide increased from 161,573 to 170,380.

Private sector employment increased by 6,600 jobs from November to December while government employment increased by 1,100 jobs. Of the industry sectors, in December, nine expanded and four contracted.

The largest gains were observed in leisure and hospitality (up 2,600), largely attributable to hiring by restaurants and bars. Employment in professional and business services expanded by 1,700, with the largest gains in professional, scientific and technical services. Employment services dropped by 600.

Manufacturing employment received a boost from aerospace industry employment (up 400) and food manufacturing (up 300). The construction sector experienced the deepest one-month losses in December. Despite increasing employment in construction of buildings (up 800) and heavy and civil engineering (up 200), specialty trade contractors shed 1,700 jobs.

Employment in retail trade decreased by 600 overall. The deepest losses were observed in other retail trade (-1,000). Transportation, warehousing and utilities dropped 600 jobs in December.

Washington gained an estimated 54,200 jobs from December 2022 to December 2023, not seasonally adjusted. Private sector employment rose by 1.2%, up an estimated 34,800 jobs, while public sector employment rose by 3.4% — up an estimated 19,400 jobs.