Workforce data and trends overview

The Washington state workforce data and trends overview includes all permanent and nonpermanent employees in state agencies under the jurisdiction of the governor and other executive elected officials.

It does not, however, cover employees in higher education and certain others, such as emergency firefighters, Youth Conservation Corps members and those who are paid by the state’s payroll system but are not considered state employees.

Some information focuses on the executive branch, which composes about 98.1 percent of the workforce, excluding higher education and commodities commissions. The legislative branch and judicial branch represent the remaining 1.8 percent. Staffing trends for state government including higher education and commodities commissions can be found on

The primary source of the information is the enterprise Human Resource Management System, or HRMS.

Key events affecting the workforce in fiscal year 2021

COVID-19 Proclamation

On February 29, 2020, the Governor issued a proclamation declaring a State of Emergency for all counties throughout Washington because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the United States and the confirmed person-to-person spread of COVID-19 in Washington. The Governor directed state agencies to shift as many employees as possible to remote work in order to minimize the risk of spread and exposure to COVID-19 in state workplaces. State HR provided more detailed direction to agencies to expand telework and allow schedule flexibility and other workplace supports to ensure the state workforce continued to be productive and serve Washington residents during the pandemic. State HR also directed agencies to allow employees to work from home while quarantining if they had close contact exposure to the coronavirus whenever possible. In cases where working from home was not possible, the employee’s time away from work was treated as compensable work time.

Furloughs Implemented for Sizable Segment of State Workforce

During the time of significant economic leading into and through this fiscal year, the Governor directed furloughs of significant segments of the state workforce. In Directive 20-08.1, the Governor directed furloughs for cabinet level agencies under the Office’s authority and encouraged furloughs for other organizations. Specifically, the furlough direction impacted approximately 40,794 employees. This reflects exceptions made for positions where the absence of the employee from positions is not feasible since another employee is required to work the position in the employee’s absence.

Governor’s Directives

  • Governor’s Directive 20-05, 20-05.1, 20-05.2 Hiring Freeze, Personal Services Contracts, and Equipment Purchases: Agencies implement cost saving measure and freeze in hiring, equipment purchases and personal service contracts.
  • Governor’s Directive 20-08; 20-08.1 Furloughs and General Wage Increases - Implement a furlough of one day a week as soon as possible. Seek an approved plan under the Shared Work program with the Employment Security Department for furloughed employees. Agencies under Governor’s authority directed to not implement the 3% general wage increase scheduled for July 1, 2020, for non-represented state employees in Exempt Management Service and Washington Management Service, and non-represented exempt employees making more than $53,000 a year.
  • Governor’s Directive 20-46 – 20.46.3 High-Risk Employees – Workers’ Rights: Employers to provide accommodation and alternative work arrangements to high-risk workers, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that protects them from risk of exposure to the COVID-19 disease on the job.

Governor’s Executive Orders

  • Executive Order 19-04 One Washington: Modernization of State Administrative Business and Systems: Directs One Washington program to deliver business transformation and modernize technology. One Washington, led by the Office of Financial Management, is an enterprise-wide transformation program focused on replacing 1960s-era technology with a cloud-based solution for finance, procurement, budget, HR, and payroll processes. 
  • Executive Order 21-01 Affirming Washington State Business Resource Groups: Support of current and future BRGs and recognize the need for greater representation of employee experience from Washington’s diverse communities at all levels of state government

Governor’s Proclamations

  • 20-05 State of Emergency  for all counties in the state of Washington in response to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. This proclamation and subsequent Governor’s proclamations issued to mitigate the pandemic in the state have had an unprecedented impact on the state’s workforce. Government agencies have mobilized to retool service delivery and maintain public health and safety.  

Legislative Impacts:

  • SHB 1016 Juneteenth - Making Juneteenth a legal holiday in Washington. This holiday will be available to all employees in 2022.
  • E2SHB 1073 Paid leave coverage - Expanding coverage of the paid family and medical leave program.
  • HB 1087 Family/medical leave continuity - Clarifying the continuity of employee family and medical leave rights.
  • SHB 1259 Women & minority contracting - Expanding public contracting opportunities for women and minority business enterprises by increasing the regulatory oversight and accountability of the office of minority and women's business enterprises.
  • SHB 1323 Long-term services trust - Concerning the long-term services and supports trust program.
  • SB 5021 Retirement benefits/furlough - Protects employees during the 2019-2021 and 2021-2023 fiscal biennia from impacts to their service credits that otherwise would have been earned for that month of work due to temporary layoff, furloughs, reduction in work hours, and mandatory leave without pay. Protects an employee’s retirement benefits as a result of an employer participating in the shared work program. 
  • ESSB 5097 Paid leave coverage - Expanding coverage of the paid family and medical leave program.
  • SB 5133 Confidential employees - Defines confidential employee for the purposes of state collective bargaining. 


  • COVID 19 Roadmap to Recovery: The pandemic provided a unique opportunity for state government to look differently at how, where, and when we get our work done as we serve Washington.  Developed a guide to provide clarity and describe the requirements and guidance for cabinet, small cabinet agencies, and governor appointed boards and commissions as the state reopens and we strengthen our new approach to work and workplaces.

  • Building a modern work environment : The state of Washington’s workplace strategy initiative is an effort, directed by Governor Inslee through Executive Order 16-07 and led by OFM, to help agencies identify, experiment with and adopt innovative ways to support its business by modernizing the physical environment, providing greater workplace flexibility and enabling a more mobile workforce.

Last Updated: 08/02/2021
Time Period: N/A
Update Frequency: annually (end of fiscal year)

Last updated
Monday, August 2, 2021
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