Despite low unemployment and solid job growth in May throughout the state and most counties, new figures from the Washington Employment Security Department point to slowing economic activity.
The state posted a 3.3% unemployment rate in May, compared to 3.8% in May 2022, according to the figures released Tuesday.
Among the state’s metropolitan areas, Walla Walla, which includes the southeast counties of Walla Walla and Columbia, reported the lowest unemployment rate at 2.9%, a drop from 4.2% in May 2022. In contrast, Yakima County, in south-central Washington, reported the highest unemployment rate among metropolitan areas at 4.2%, a drop from 5.6% in May 2022.
The Seattle metropolitan area — which includes King and Snohomish counties — showed a 3.2% unemployment rate, an increase from 2.6% in May 2022. The job losses may reflect the thousands of layoffs at tech companies headquartered here.
Asotin County reported the lowest employment rate among the state’s 39 counties, at 2.4%. The rural county, in Washington’s southeast corner, is part of the Lewiston, Idaho, metropolitan area.
Ferry County, in northwest Washington, reported the highest unemployment rate, at 6%, though that was a decrease from 8.3% in May 2022.
Employment Security reported seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, which account for occurrences such as holiday hiring, for the state and the Seattle area last week. Rates for the state and Seattle area, seasonally adjusted, were 4.1% and 3.0% in May, respectively.
While unemployment dropped from April’s figures, it increased compared to May 2022, when the unemployment rate was 3.9% for the state and 2.9% for the Seattle area.
While the drops in unemployment in most counties are a positive indicator for the economy, Washington’s year-over-year job growth appears to be gradually slowing, according to the state.
In May, Washington reported 104,700 more jobs year over year, a 2.97% increase. However, that is a less robust year-over-year increase than April’s, when the state saw a 3.18% job growth rate, or 111,300.
Job growth statewide has been slowing in recent months, especially compared to several months in 2022, which may serve as a lagging indicator of an impending recession or an economic slowdown.
Among the most robust job growth in the state’s metropolitan counties was in Olympia, in Thurston County, which reported 5,200 more jobs year-over-year, a 4.1% increase. In contrast, the Wenatchee metropolitan area, which consists of the north-central counties of Chelan and Douglas, reported 200 fewer jobs year-over-year, a 0.42% decrease.