Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Washington State sees job losses and a rise in unemployment in January

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OLYMPIA. — At the start of 2024, the state of Washington experienced a downturn in its labor market, with a notable decrease in payroll employment and a rise in the unemployment rate. According to the latest data from the Employment Security Department (ESD), the state's economy shed an estimated 3,600 jobs in January (seasonally adjusted), pushing the unemployment rate up from 4.2% in December to 4.6% in January.

The labor force in Washington remained relatively stable year over year, despite the fluctuations in employment across various sectors. The beginning of the year highlighted a deceleration in job growth alongside an uptick in unemployment, signaling a shift in the labor market dynamics.

January saw ESD disbursing unemployment benefits to 77,692 individuals, marking an increase of 9,522 from December. This rise in claims was largely attributed to seasonal adjustments within key industries, including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality.

In a notable revision, the preliminary job gains for December 2023 were adjusted from an estimated 7,700 to 15,200 positions, confirming the monthly unemployment rate at 4.2%. Anneliese Vance-Sherman, ESD's Chief Labor Economist, remarked on the trend of slowing payroll growth observed throughout 2023, despite a generally tight labor market characterized by low unemployment rates.

Comparatively, the national unemployment rate held steady at 3.7% in January, against a backdrop of a minor increase from January 2023's revised rate of 3.4%.

The state's labor force saw minor changes year over year, with a slight increase in the number of unemployed individuals from December 2023 to January 2024. Specifically, unemployment figures rose marginally in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region during this period.

Job movements in January were mixed across sectors: five industries expanded, six contracted, and two remained unchanged. The professional and business services, along with education and health services, led the gains, while leisure and hospitality experienced the most significant losses.

Over the year, Washington has gained approximately 50,100 jobs, with the private sector and public employment both showing increases. The education and health services, government, and leisure and hospitality sectors reported the largest annual employment gains.

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