State unemployment rises to 4.8%

Washington state’s economy added an estimated 5,300 jobs (seasonally adjusted) and the monthly unemployment rate rose from 4.7% in February to 4.8% in March.

Last month’s unemployment rate is the highest recorded rate since 2021, surpassing the previous high mark set in February.

It also marked the sixth consecutive month of increasing unemployment rates in Washington.

The state’s unemployment rate has been slowly increasing since September 2023, when it was 3.6%.

Job growth is still trending up, state officials said, but overall growth has slowed in recent months as net employment continues to increase in some industries and decrease in others.

“Even though Washington employers added jobs for two consecutive months, the overall trend of job growth has been declining over time,” said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, chief regional economist for the Washington State Employment Security Department.

Employment Security paid unemployment insurance benefits to 72,162 people in March, a decrease of 1,478 paid claims over the previous month.

Clallam County’s unemployment rate for March 2024 was 6.6% — tied with Jefferson County for 13th-highest among the state’s 39 counties.

The national unemployment rate fell to 3.8% in March from 3.9% in February. For comparison, the national unemployment rate (revised) for March 2023 was 3.5%.

From February to March 2024, the number of people who were unemployed statewide increased from 190,070 to 193,580.

The state’s labor force in March was 3,640,500 — an increase of 5,300 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.

Eight major industry sectors expanded, four contracted and one stayed the same from February to March

Private sector employment increased by 2,900 jobs from February to March. Government employment also increased by 2,400 jobs.

The largest sector-level gains in private industry were in professional and business services (up 2,700 jobs), and wholesale trade (up 1,800 jobs).

The deepest losses came from other services (down 2,300 jobs), including losses in membership associations and organizations (down 1,000 jobs).

The largest gains in the professional and business services sector were made in professional, scientific and technical services (up 2,300 jobs), especially in computer systems design and related services (up 800 jobs).

Mining and logging had no change in jobs from February to March.