Workers in Washington got both kinds of news in August.
The good: Employers added a solid 16,100 jobs last month, the biggest gain since April and a welcome shift after three months of modest hiring, the state Employment Security Department reported Wednesday. The agency also revised July’s hiring at 10,200, up from an earlier figure of 6,600.
The bad: Despite the hiring surge, the number of unemployed Washingtonians rose slightly in August. The state’s labor force (all employed and unemployed people 16 and older) shrank by nearly 10,000 compared with July and unemployment remained unchanged at 3.7%. All told, it suggests that finding a job isn’t as easy as it was earlier in the pandemic.
The shift “serves as an indication the labor market is beginning to cool,” Paul Turek, ESD’s state economist, said in a statement.
Washington’s cooldown, which echoes national patterns, was especially notable in King County, where unemployment increased from a super-low 2.5% in July to 2.6% in August.
That may reflect recent reports of a slowdown in hiring by some of Seattle’s biggest employers, as well as a decline in the number of local online job openings as companies react to rising interest rates, the risk of a recession and other economic uncertainty.
Boeing, which was on a hiring tear as recently as this spring, posted just 6,250 openings during the May-August period, which is less than a quarter of the number it posted from February-May.
At Amazon, which hired heavily though much of the pandemic, job postings dropped by almost a third. “I don’t think that you’ll see us hiring at the same rates that we did,” CEO Andrew Jassy told a conference last week.
Tech employers in Washington shed 1,100 jobs in August, the most of any sector, with transportation, warehousing and utility companies second at 1,000 lost jobs.
The biggest gains came in government, at 6,700 new jobs; education and health services (2,500); and professional and business services (2,200).