Hiring in Washington state picked up sharply in November but still lagged the strong pace this summer amid COVID worries, labor shortages and supply chain problems.

Employers added 12,800 jobs in November, according to a monthly report Wednesday from the state Employment Security Department (ESD). That’s a major gain compared with October, when the state lost 500 jobs, according to a revised ESD estimate. (Last month, the agency reported a gain of 6,300 jobs in October.)

Washington’s November growth outpaced hiring for the United States as a whole, which saw a 62% decline, to 210,000 jobs, in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Washington was “a little bit ahead of the rest of the country,” said Jacob Vigdor, an economist with the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy who studies state and local job markets. “Although we have only 2% of the nation’s population, we accounted for over 6% of the nation’s new jobs” in November.

Washington’s unemployment rate in November was 4.7%, down from 5% in October.

Still, November’s hiring lags the strong jobs growth Washington saw between June and September, when monthly hiring averaged just over 19,000.

The state’s labor market recovery “is moving along more slowly than what had been expected,” said Paul Turek, the ESD’s state economist. Many economists had assumed that employment would return to pre-COVID levels “whenever the fears about the pandemic completely subsided,” Turek added. “Well, it hasn’t happened.”


Beyond lingering pandemic concerns, economists also attributed some of Washington’s underperformance to a tight labor market and to materials shortages and price increases arising from supply chain problems.

Industries that lost jobs in November, such as wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, are heavily dependent on imported goods.

“The supply chain is proving to be a major bump on our road to economic recovery,” Vigdor said. “It’s responsible for much of what we’re seeing with the uptick in inflation, and proving to be a challenge for industries focused on moving goods from factory to consumer.”

Turek said the sharp downward revision in October’s jobs numbers was mainly a result of changes in earlier hiring estimates in computer and parts manufacturing and in professional, scientific and technical services. Initial jobs estimates, which are based on payroll data from employer surveys, are often revised as more payroll data comes in, Turek said.

October’s numbers may be further adjusted when the state “benchmarks” jobs growth using unemployment tax data early next year and could be revised upward, Turek added.

Coverage of the pandemic’s economic impacts is partially underwritten by Microsoft Philanthropies. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all its coverage.