Seattle Unemployment at 6-Year Low in June

Let’s have a look at the jobs data for June and how the Seattle area’s unemployment rate and approximate labor participation rate alongside the national numbers.

Unemployment & Labor Participation

In June the Seattle area’s unemployment rate hit its lowest level in almost six years. June’s 4.8 percent unemployment rate was comparable to the 4.7 percent level in August 2008. The national unemployment rate is still a bit higher at 6.1 percent, also roughly on-par with the same period in late 2008.

The Seattle-area labor participation has held steady around 70 percent so far all this year. June’s level was 70.3 percent. The national labor force participation rate has also been relatively stable, but quite a bit lower, coming in at 62.8 percent for June. Since 2011 the Seattle-area labor participation rate has held relatively steady, while the national level has fallen about a point.

For reference, in 2006 when everyone imagined the economy to be in great health, the local unemployment rate averaged 4.3% and the labor participation rate averaged 69.5%.

Here’s a look at the local and national unemployment rates with Washington’s statewide rate thrown in as well.

Seattle-Area Unemployment Rate

Washington as a whole is doing slightly better than the nation, but not as well as the Seattle area.


Seasonally adjusted series used for all data sets.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1

    I’ll Sum Up Rosy Employment Allegations Quite Succintly

    P/T or severely underemployed replacing diminished professional degreed salary pay jobs is considerred a wash. The rich elite that don’t work smile anyway.

    Don’t believe the MSM, when you go out to eat, ask how many table workers there have 4 year degrees in Seattle….the news that low unemployment numbers cloud over.

  2. 2
    Erik's Step Dad says:

    Always quick on the trigger with a glib response. All these jobs in Seattle sure do suck. I’m moving to Kansas City. RE: softwarengineer @ 1

  3. 3
    redmondjp says:

    Let us consider for a moment who is counted as unemployed. For example, let’s take a look at all of the Microsoft contractors and vendors who will no longer be working there, or soon will be forced to take a (minimum) 6-month break – are any of these workers counted as unemployed? Can you draw unemployment once your contract ends?

    I’m fascinated by these ‘shadow stats’, since they are so hard to accurately determine. It would appear that nobody outside Microsoft knows the vendor and contractor employee totals.

  4. 4
    Christian Wathne says:

    I think its amazing to see the difference in labor participation rate between the Seattle area and the rest of the nation. If you have valuable skills this is a great place to live.

    Not everybody works minimum wage; There are 10 to 40 stories of high paid white collar work in offices above just about every retail store or cafe downtown.

  5. 5
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 2 – Can anyone here comment on that odd new policy? Is it to fend off possible lawsuits from contractors who contend they are de facto employees and should receive employee benefits?

  6. 6
    Erik says:

    I see people on here being confident the economy is good to go. What i see is that in 2 years, we are gonna all be screwed again. Look at the graph!!! Historically we will get hammered in 2 years. If I were you Christian, I would sell that place in Bellevue in the next year or so and put that money in a trust or some diversified mutual funds. It is not a matter of if we will go into another recession, it is a matter of when we will go into another recession.

  7. 7
    Andrea says:

    Maybe this ( combined wwith the MSFT layoff will help people to open their eyes … we don’t need an iceberg to tank the economy, a snowball will be enough …

  8. 8
    drshort says:

    It’s tough to compare the participation rates between different regions (like Seattle vs national) because demographic mix play a huge role in the overall rate. For instance, those over 65 have a much lower participation rate than younger workers. Which is why the national participation rate is expected to keep dropping as the baby boomers get well into retirement. It would be more useful to look at the 25 – 55 year old cohort.

  9. 9
    Blurtman says:

    RE: drshort @ 7 – A popular view is that labor force participation is declining because older people are retiring. But since 2000 the labor force participation rates of workers 55 and over have been rising steadily, and the labor force participation rates of workers between 16 and 54 have been declining.

    What is clear is that the workforce is aging. Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, 2 million fewer Americans are employed. The 25 to 54 age group has seen a decline in employment of 6 million workers. The 55+ age group, in contrast, has seen an increase in employment of 4.8 million workers. Employment in the 16 to 24 group is down by 1.8 million.

    The labor force participation rate of Americans aged 55 and over has increased by 4.6 percentage points from 2003 to 2013. Both men and women have seen increases in labor force participation rates and employment levels.

    In contrast, for the 25 to 54 age group, the core group of workers in the labor force, participation rate has declined by 2 percentage points over the same time period, from 83 percent to 81 percent.

    The biggest decline in labor force participation rates can be observed for workers aged 16 to 24. In 2013, 55 percent were participating in the labor force, compared to 62 percent in 2003, a decline of 7 percentage points.

    If these young people were increasingly enrolled in school, then declining labor force participation might not be negative. They might be investing in education, resulting in better jobs later on in life. But no, the percentage of 16 to 24 year olds enrolled in high school, college, or university has risen by only three tenths of a percentage point over the past decade, from 56 percent to 56.3 percent.

    The 55+ are the winners. Compared with all other groups, unemployment rates were lowest for the 55+ age group in 2013 and have seen the smallest increase since the recession.

    Young workers entering the labor force are having a difficult time finding a job. Openings for unskilled workers often attract many more applicants than position. Colleges and professional schools have many graduates with no jobs.

    One reason for few jobs for younger workers is the increasing labor force participation rate of older workers who are delaying retirement, leaving fewer job openings for younger workers.

    Another reason is the slow GDP growth rate of around 2 percent, which results in low job creation. Younger workers, and middle-aged workers, become discouraged and drop out.

    Of course, with lengthening life expectancies, it is good news that older people show increasing rates of labor force participation. The economy needs faster growth so that jobs can be created for the core 25 to 54 group, as well as for younger people.

  10. 10
    Blurtman says:

    The labor force participation rate data is always interesting, but it is hard to believe that RE data is more detailed than labor data. If home sales were up overall, but due entirely to an increase in the low tier offsetting declining mid and upper tier home sales, that would be quite meaningful. Don’t we have that same level of detail available for labor? If the participation rate were up, but due entirely to an increase in low level jobs offsetting declining mid and upper income jobs, that might be quite meaningful.

  11. 11

    RE: Christian Wathne @ 4

    Yes There’s Professional Workers in Kansas City Too

    I’m sure almost all of them aren’t in the real estate market, as most have decades of experience and bought a home decades ago.

    The secret is find and define the small percentage of Seattle’s existing professional workforce that are renting and looking to buy…..good luck, the internet hides this statistic. Google it if you don’t believe me.

  12. 12

    RE: Blurtman @ 9

    Unfortunately, the MSM Can’t Have It Both Ways

    You want Baby Boomers like SWE to retire on like 0% safe CD interest so the mortgage interest is low at 3-5% with QE infusions. Yeah, I can do that, once I get “full Social Security” [a big IF] and even get 75% of my present pay at retirement….but with modest pensions included, I’ll need at least $1M in cash. All retirees are faced with this dilemma.

    Ohhhh….we could retire on 25-50% of our present pay; stop travelling, eating out and consumer spending….that would put a daggard through the Seattle economy’s heart too.

  13. 13
    Blurtman says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 12 – C’mon, SWE, if the Fed did not engage in QE, the banks would be even more insolvent then they are. Where do your loyalties lie, you selfish bastahd?

  14. 14

    I wonder how much of the reduced unemployment is due to people leaving to go work in the fracking industry? ;-)

  15. 15
    redmondjp says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 14 – The oil and gas industry is booming right now! The OK City office of my federal agency has lost several engineers to that industry within the past year or two (can’t say that I blame them – if you have to live there you might as well collect maximum dinero).

    But most of the jobs are in places that nobody wants to live within 1000 miles of . . . if you’re young and willing to relocate, and can live frugally (which is relatively easy when one is working 80 hours a week), it’s a great way to store up a considerable nest egg after a few years and then move somewhere nicer.

  16. 16
    Marc says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 15 – Hey now, don’t dog on OKC like that. As a born and raised Okie let me attest to the quality of life there. Look past the crazy summer heat and tornados and it’s a great place to live. The people are awesome (think the complete opposite of the Seattle Freeze). The cost of living is ridonkulous compared to Seattle which is why everybody drives a new car and has a sweet house (or so it seems to me every time I go back). And it’s like the Great Recession never hit there. They went virtually unscathed and unemployment is stupid low.

    They’ve got great college football, minor league hockey, and, to Seattle’s dismay, they’re ape-sh!t crazy about professional basketball.

  17. 17
    Erik says:

    RE: Marc @ 16
    Go back there then.

  18. 18
    Erik says:

    RE: Erik’s Step Dad @ 2
    Good riddens. Bye-now. That is 2 less people. Who else is gonna leave? If you are here, be happy we let you stay. If you don’t like it here, then GTFO!!!!! Get!!! Seriously…. Leave!!!

  19. 19
    Erik says:

    I wish we could filter the ungreatful trash out from other states. They come to my state, pollute it with negativity, write some code, and then talk smack about the state that made them. Go back to wherever you people are from. We don’t want you here.

  20. 20
    ongsomwang says:

    RE: Erik @ 6

    I am worried about the economy as well. As a young professional it is obvious that something is wrong with this current economic climate in America today. Way to many young adults living with student debt, and not enough good paying jobs.

    I am really hoping that the economy can hold on for another 2 years.

  21. 21
    wreckingbull says:

    Yeah! What he said! Good riddens [sic], you ungreatful [sic] trash.

  22. 22
    Jonness says:

    I frequently sit on IT hiring panels. It’s presently difficult to find talented IT professionals. The people who repeatedly get skipped over are not the cream of the crop. The other 98% of IT workers are employed.

    At the end of the day, employers generally look at the list of suitable candidates and hire whomever they believe can get the most work done. So when you’re out there looking for jobs and repeatedly getting turned down, keep in mind others are simply beating you out for the open positions. In cases where the positions go unfilled, you simply do not qualify for the position you applied for. This is a wake-up call that you need to improve your level of knowledge and skills.

  23. 23
    ChrisM says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 21 – I expect that post to be edited..

  24. 24
    Another Mike says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 9 – What’s interesting is that several folks are saying that the USA could be doomed to a sub 2% GDP growth from now on, because the country is just an ossified bureaucracy with entrenched corporate interests, an aging population and high social benefit expenses (like Western Europe & Japan). It’s following the natural growth cycle of a country – the US is no longer a developing or emerging market like it used to be, so the US will no longer see that massive growth that we have been accustomed to, and we will follow in the footsteps of the colonial powers in Europe and Japan.

    I’m not sure if this is correct or not, but every time someone says “this time it’s different”, it seems like it never is. At least it’s not the Weimar Republic scenario…

  25. 25
    Azucar says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 21

    I have been away from this site for a while due to other priorities, but in checking back in it is good to see Erik is still impressing everyone with his “remarkable” insights.

    I guess it’s like they say…. “every village needs one!”

  26. 26
    Erik says:

    RE: ongsomwang @ 20
    Just by reading the graph and looking at the pattern, we will likely have 2 more good years of economy for sure. After that it is a gamble to buy a house. When unemployment gets down around 3.5%, it is time to hit the eject button on your investments. I am still gonna buy atleast 1 more condo or house and sell it after a year or so to a software person before the market tanks. I think we still have time. Just keep your finger on the eject button.

  27. 27

    By Another Mike @ 24:

    RE: Blurtman @ 9 – What’s interesting is that several folks are saying that the USA could be doomed to a sub 2% GDP growth from now on, because the country is just an ossified bureaucracy with entrenched corporate interests, an aging population and high social benefit expenses (like Western Europe & Japan). .

    Growth is probably most dependent on technological advancements, but government can be an anchor hindering growth, and yes older people become less productive or even totally non-productive.

  28. 28

    By Erik @ 19:

    I wish we could filter the ungreatful trash out from other states. They come to my state, pollute it with negativity, write some code, and then talk smack about the state that made them. Go back to wherever you people are from. We don’t want you here.

    Yeah. What’s wrong with native born, locally produced ungrateful trash?

  29. 29
    SaffyThePook says:

    By Erik @ 19:

    I wish we could filter the ungreatful trash out from other states. They come to my state, pollute it with negativity, write some code, and then talk smack about the state that made them. Go back to wherever you people are from. We don’t want you here.

    Speak for yourself, Erik. If our homegrown talent was up to snuff, this wouldn’t be a “problem”.

  30. 30
    Question Mark says:

    Tim, While the magnitude of the current Seattle unemployment rate is *similar* to that of August 2008, I’d say that current unemployment is more *comparable* to the beginning months of 2005, as the unemployment rate levels off from a previous high.

  31. 31
    Question Mark says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 3 – The new Microsoft vendor policy took effect only at the beginning of this month. So there is, effectively, an 18 month grace period before anyone has their access cancelled as a vendor.

    And, yes, those workers who work for a contracting agency will be counted as unemployed, similar to cyclical workers such as in the construction industry.

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