State unemployment holds steady in November

The state’s unemployment rate held steady in November at 6 percent, according to the Employment Security Department.

The economy added 100 jobs in November, according to preliminary estimates, but job gains and losses have typically taken more time to confirm. For example, the previous monthly report for October estimated a gain of 1,000 jobs, but that has since been revised to 22,800 jobs.

Washington remains under the national unemployment rate, which decreased from 6.9 to 6.7 percent in November; however, it’s still nearly two times higher than November 2019.

The ESD also paid unemployment benefits to 53,507 fewer people in November, a total of 400,291.

“The government sector job losses almost completely counteracted private sector job gains in November,” said Paul Turek, an ESD economist. “However, the rate of improvement in private employment has slowed, and the latest round of COVID restrictions creates the potential for payrolls to decline next month.”

Six of the state’s 13 industry sectors expanded while another six contracted, and one was unchanged. The greatest gains were found in the professional & business services, other services and financial industries, while government and leisure & hospitality saw the highest losses. Private sector employment increased by 2,600 jobs, but that was nearly offset by a decrease in 2,500 jobs in the government sector.

The six sectors that gained jobs were professional & business services (up 6,000 jobs); other services (up 800 jobs); financial activities (up 700 jobs); transportation, warehousing and utilities (up 500 jobs); construction (up 200 jobs); and education and health services (up 100 jobs).

Meanwhile, after government jobs, leisure & hospitality took the next biggest hit (2,300 jobs), followed by manufacturing (down 1,500 jobs); wholesale trade (down 1,000 jobs); retail trade (down 600 jobs); and information (down 300 jobs).

Year-over-year, the state lost approximately 170,300 jobs between Novembers 2019 and 2020; those numbers are not yet seasonally adjusted. Private employment was down 4.4 percent and public sector employment down 7.2 percent.

Initial unemployment claims were down over 20 percent in the week ending Dec. 12, and claims for all unemployment benefit categories were down 0.3 percent. Initial claims are still 168 percent higher than the same week in 2019, however pandemic unemployment assistance and pandemic emergency unemployment compensation initial claims and continuing claims were up. The state paid $145 million to over 300,000 individual claims.

The largest decreases in initial claims came from the accommodation and food services (down 1,585 claims) and construction (down 1,284) industry sectors, two of the hardest hit areas during the pandemic.