Skrinking workforce pushes state's unemployment down

Unemployment in Washington dropped in December and the state’s total estimated jobs increased, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department.

Paul Turek, an Employment Security labor economist, said the drop in December’s unemployment rate was caused primarily by a shrinking labor force as discouraged job seekers stopped looking for work. Yet Washington state economists say they are optimistic about the state’s labor market.

“We’re not heading southward, we’re heading northward,” Turek said, in a news release. “It was a baby step in the right direction.”

Big job gains were seen in professional and business services, where 2,900 new jobs were added, largely in temporary agencies. Jobs in private education and health services increased by 2,000. Other services, a catch-all category including auto body shops and nail salons, added 1,400 jobs. Wholesale trade increased by 1,300; construction by 800; leisure and hospitality, 600; and mining and logging, 100.

The greatest job losses were reported in government, which shed 1,500 jobs, and manufacturing, which lost 1,400. All of the lost government jobs were state agencies and public colleges. In manufacturing, job losses were predominantly in food processing.

Other sectors with jobs declines included information and retail trade, which were both down by 400 jobs. The transportation, warehousing and utilities sector and the financial activities sector each lost 300 jobs.

Over the past year, an estimated 41,800 jobs have been added in Washington. Since the low point of the recession, when 205,000 jobs were lost, 170,600 (83 percent) have been added.

In December, an estimated 227,900 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 125,200 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

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