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Payroll employment plummets, unemployment rate soars

Washington’s economy lost 527,000 jobs in April and the state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for April increased from 5.1 percent to 15.4 percent according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).

MonthTotal Job lossesUnemployment rate2019 Unemployment Rate
March 202025,4005.1 percent4.5 percent
April 2020527,00015.4 percent4.4 percent

“The April jobs report numbers confirm what we already expected based on the record number of individuals who have filed for unemployment benefits since March 7,” said ESD Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “While these numbers are dramatic, it is in alignment with what we expected as the state has taken the public health crisis seriously and is abiding by the ‘Stay home, stay healthy’ order. These losses are likely to continue into May, with a shift coming the other direction as our economy gradually re-opens. Employment Security, along with our partner agencies and state leaders, are committed to helping Washingtonians during this crisis and get back to work as it becomes safe to do so.”

The Employment Security Department released the preliminary job estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its Monthly Employment Report.

The department also announced that March’s previously reported unemployment rate of 5.1 was confirmed. March’s preliminary estimated loss of 11,100 jobs was revised to a loss of 25,400 jobs.

The national unemployment rate (preliminary) rose from 4.4 percent in March 2020 to 14.7 percent in April 2020. In April 2019, the national unemployment rate (revised) was 3.6 percent.

Employment Security paid regular unemployment insurance benefits to 599,735 people in April, an increase of 414,277 over the previous month.

Labor force increases as more are added to unemployment rolls

The state’s labor force in April was 3,957,300 – an increase of 66,600 people from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 3,800 over the same period.

From April 2019 through April 2020, the state’s labor force grew by 67,700 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region decreased by 6,483.

The labor force is the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over the age of 16.

From March 2020 to April 2020, the number of people who were unemployed statewide increased from 198,600 to 610,700. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the number of people who were unemployed increased from 95,900 to 247,800 over the same period.

All thirteen industry sectors contracted in April

Private sector employment decreased by 498,500 and government employment decreased by 28,500. Provided below is a summary of the number of jobs lost in each industry sector.

    Industry sector                                           Job losses

Leisure and hospitality177,700     
Construction  81,000
Education and health services  66,700
Retail trade  45,600
Professional and business services  35,300
Other services  31,200
Government  28,500
Manufacturing  27,500
Wholesale trade  12,700
Transportation, warehousing and utilities    9,500
Financial activities    7,600
Information    3,200
Mining and logging       500

Year-over-year growth in payroll employment ceases, now turns negative

Washington lost an estimated 485,800 jobs from April 2019 through April 2020, not seasonally adjusted. The private sector contracted by 16.3 percent, down an estimated 463,900 jobs, while public sector employment contracted 3.7 percent with a net loss of 21,900 jobs.

From April 2019 through April 2020, twelve out of the thirteen major industries contracted while only the information sector added jobs.

The three industry sectors with the largest employment losses year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted, were:

COVID-19 impacts

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had impact on the April 2020 survey data. The household survey measures labor force status, including unemployment. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment by industry.

The information contained in the April report is reflective of workers who worked during or received pay (subject to Unemployment Insurance wages) for the payroll period which includes the 12th day of the month. For the April employment report the survey reference week was for April 12th through April 18th.

Check out additional COVID-19 related information and FAQs from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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