State officials say slight uptick in May unemployment might actually be a good sign

Washington gained 11,700 jobs in May while the state’s unemployment rate for last month rose slightly, according to figures from the state’s Employment Security Department.

The estimated unemployment rate rose from April’s revised rate of 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent in May.

State economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman said the higher unemployment rate was caused primarily by more unemployed people re-entering the job market.

The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the estimated number of unemployed people who have looked for work within the past four weeks by the total civilian labor force.

“In this case, the higher unemployment rate could be a sign that people are feeling more optimistic about their chances of finding a job,” said Vance-Sherman, in a press release.

As another sign of optimism, the professional and business services sector accounted for nearly half of the estimated net job growth in May, with much of it occurring in the employment-services industry.

“Businesses often turn to temp agencies when they’re ready to start hiring again, so we’re excited when we see job growth in that area,” Vance-Sherman said.

Industry sectors that added the most jobs in May were professional and business services, up by an estimated 5,400 jobs; transportation, warehousing and utilities, which added 2,600; wholesale trade, up 1,900; manufacturing, up 1,400; construction, up 1,200; financial activities, up 1,000; retail trade, up 400; and education & health services, up 400.

Government employment continued to drop, losing an estimated 2,600 jobs in May. Leisure and hospitality lost 200 jobs, and the information sector lost an estimated 100 jobs.

Within the government sector, federal employment in Washington dropped by 1,100 jobs, state agencies lost an estimated 700 jobs, local government and K-12 schools lost 300 jobs each, and public higher education lost 200 jobs.

With May’s job gains, Washington has regained an estimated 102,500 jobs since the low point of the recession.

In May, an estimated 292,600 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work.

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