Thurston County Unemployment Among Lowest in Region, New Numbers Show

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Unemployment in Thurston County fell to 6 percent in January, according to a monthly report published last week by the state Employment Security Department (ESD).

It marks a slight decrease from the previous month. 

Thurston County has among the lowest unemployment in the Puget Sound region, with Kitsap County currently leading at 5.9 percent. As of January, Thurston County had 131,483 workers employed out of a total labor force of 139,900. 

The unemployment rate shrank in October to 5.6 percent — the lowest recorded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — after nearly 10,000 jobs were added to the labor force to total a record 150,683, but that has since subsided. 

Thurston County’s unemployment ballooned in April 2020 to 16.4 percent, marking the height of the pandemic job loss. 

The average 2019 unemployment rate was 4.8 percent for Thurston County, and 2020 averaged 8.3 percent. 

Washington state’s economy added 4,400 jobs, and its seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell from 7.1 percent the month prior to 6 percent in January. 

Preliminary numbers show the unemployment rate for the state is expected to dip to 5.6 percent. Nationwide, the rate is expected to be at 6.2 percent. 

“The new year is off to a better start as far as the labor market is concerned,” said ESD economist Paul Turek in a statement. “January’s employment gain only partially reverses last month’s decline, but as more vaccinations are given and business conditions improve, the labor market recovery should strengthen.”

Despite being a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for unemployment insurance remains at elevated levels. It’s estimated ESD paid benefits to some 433,524 workers in January, a slim decrease of only 1,216 over the previous month. 

The week of March 7-13 this year, ESD received 11,699 initial applications for new benefits. That number continues to decline week over week. 

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