Retail gains help state unemployment drop below 8 percent

Washington’s unemployment rate has dipped below 8 percent for the first time since January 2009, according to a recent estimate from the state’s Employment Security Department.

Unemployment in November was at 7.8 percent, seasonally adjusted. The decrease from 8.2 percent recorded in October was the largest one-month decline the state has seen since November 1977, according to state officials.

Non-farm employment continued to climb, with an estimated net gain of 1,600 jobs last month, seasonally adjusted, according to recent data.

“Job growth appeared to slow in November, but the trend of the last three months is very positive,” said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for the Employment Security Department, in a press release.

Elling added that average monthly growth from August to November was 5,400. If maintained for a year, it would result in a growth rate of 2.3 percent.

Industries with the most estimated job gains in November were retail trade, which added 2,500 jobs; construction, up 1,400; leisure and hospitality, up 1,200; transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 800; education and health services, up 600; other services, up 600; and manufacturing, up 400.

Industries with job losses last month included professional and business services, down 2,900; financial activities, down 1,300; wholesale trade, down 1,000; and government, down 800 jobs.

Within the government sector, state agencies lost an estimated 900 jobs, public higher education declined by 1,000 jobs, K-12 schools added 600, local government added 400, and federal employment grew by an estimated 100 jobs.

Across all sectors, Washington’s seasonally adjusted employment has grown by about 122,000 jobs, out of a recession loss of about 205,000 jobs.

In November, an estimated 270,000 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 135,985 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

Also in November, 5,326 unemployed workers ran out of unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 121,273 since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.

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