State unemployment rate drops for the first time in three years

The last drop came in March 2007, with a record low of 4.4 percent. The current 9.2 percent is still high, but trending the right way.
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The last drop came in March 2007, with a record low of 4.4 percent. The current 9.2 percent is still high, but trending the right way.

Washington'ꀙs unemployment rate dropped in April for the first time in three years, and seasonally adjusted employment grew by 5,800. Both are good signs of a continuing recovery in the state, though the job-creation numbers remain a bit sluggish.

The statewide unemployment rate fell from 9.5 percent in March to 9.2 percent in April. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area the unemployment rate dropped slightly from 8.6 percent to 8.5 percent.

Job growth has occurred in three of the four months in 2010 with the total number of new jobs at about 14,800. Monthly reports from the Employment Security Department frequently are revised the following month as the data is reviewed or more comes in. For example, the preliminary employment change for March was a gain of 1,600 jobs. In today'ꀙs report it was revised upward to a gain of 5,600 jobs.

'ꀜI believe the trend in month-over-month growth in the number of jobs is a genuine positive sign,'ꀝ said Desiree Phair, King County Regional Labor Economist with the Employment Security Department. 'ꀜThe decline in the unemployment rate is good news, but I would like to see that decline confirmed in the May numbers before feeling confident that it is the sign of a new trend.'ꀝ

The last time the unemployment rate declined was March 2007, when it dropped from 4.5 percent to 4.4 percent — a record low rate for the state. Since then, the rate has either increased or held steady for 36 straight months.

An estimated 306,692 people (not seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work, and more than 277,000 people received unemployment benefits from Washington in April.

Elsewhere in the region, the reports were equally encouraging. King County was at 7.5 percent compared with 8.2 percent in March. Snohomish County dropped to 8.9 percent from 9.8 percent, and Pierce County returned to single digits with a 9.2 rate compared with 10.9 in March. County rates are not seasonally adjusted.

Earlier this month, the national employment report was mixed with nonfarm payroll employment rising by 290,000 in April, but the unemployment rate edged up to 9.9 percent from 9.7 percent, where the rate had been stuck for three months. The increase in the unemployment rate resulted from an increase in the labor force, as more people were encouraged enough by the economy to return to looking for work. The labor force is made up of people both employed and looking for employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported job gains in manufacturing, professional and business services, health care, and leisure and hospitality. Federal government employment also rose, reflecting continued hiring of temporary workers for Census 2010.

Companies are hiring. The Puget Sound Business Journal reported Friday, for example, that Google is hiring 300 temporary workers locally to help improve the accuracy of Google maps.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Stephen H. Dunphy

Stephen H. Dunphy

Stephen H. Dunphy writes on business and economic issues for Crosscut. He was a business editor and columnist for a number of years at The Seattle Times.