Washington’s unemployment rate has declined steadily since 2016, and now matches the pre-Great Recession low of 4.7%. It’s been a long road to recovery — and official unemployment numbers do not include the many discouraged people who are no longer actively looking for employment, and others who are working part time or in “make-do” jobs because of the scarcity of desirable jobs.
By the end of the Great Recession, Washington’s average rate of unemployment was above 10%. It took nearly 18 months beyond the official end of the recession for the rate to begin dropping steadily. After stagnating through the middle months of 2013, the rate fell under 7% by July 2013, and to 6% by July 2014.
In late summer of 2014 the labor force began growing faster than job growth could accommodate, and unemployment leveled off, hovering between 5.6% and 5.8% throughout 2015. Unemployment began declining again in 2016, matching the pre-Great Recession low of 4.7% in since fall 2017.
The broadest measure of labor underutilization (officially called the “U-6”, but often referred to in the press as the “underemployment rate”) includes: the officially unemployed; the “marginally attached” (those neither working nor looking for work, but who want and are available to work, and have looked for work in the past year); and people working part-time who want a full-time job. At its peak in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the national U-6 was 17.1%; as of February 2018 it was down to 8.2%.