Thurston County’s unemployment rate generally tracks the rises and falls of national and state employment cycles. From 1990 to 2021, the county’s rate increased in each of the various national downturns and decreased during each of the recoveries. Due in part to the high proportion of state employment in Thurston County, the unemployment rate tends to stay lower than the state as a whole, especially during periods of economic recession.
Unemployment increased substantially between 2019 and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and regulations that directly impacted businesses. By 2021, the unemployment rate dropped significantly though it remains higher in Thurston County than both the state and nation.
Proper interpretation of unemployment figures requires an understanding of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’s working definition of “employment.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person 16 or older is considered employed if he or she has worked at least one hour for pay or profit during the reference period, or did not work due to illness, vacation, labor dispute, bad weather, or personal leave. A person is not considered unemployed if they are not in the labor force (e.g. retired or not looking for work).