State adds jobs in March, Bellingham sees losses

The Bellingham Business Journal

Washington’s economy gained an estimated 1,600 jobs in March, while the unemployment rate edged up to 9.5 percent from February’s revised rate of 9.4 percent.

March job gains marked the second time in three months the state has posted positive job numbers. That’s on the heels of 13 consecutive months of job losses stretching from the end of 2008 to the end of 2009.

“This recovery is going to take time, but the latest job gains are another positive indicator that we’re on the right track,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee.

Bellingham’s job growth was not as bright; the number of jobs in March dropped 500  from February’s 79,400.

Industries that added jobs statewide in March were professional and business services, up 1,500; retail trade, up 500; leisure and hospitality, up 500. Other industries also saw minor job gains.

Meanwhile, construction dropped an estimated 1,400 jobs in March. Other industries that shed jobs were financial activities, down 700, and education and health services, down 300.

The Washington labor force grew by nearly 6,000 people in March. It’s likely that many of them previously grew discouraged, stopped looking for work and are now job-hunting again, said Dave Wallace, an economist at Employment Security.

People who are unemployed but not actively seeking work are not factored into the unemployment rate. When discouraged workers rejoin the job market faster than jobs are created, they can cause the unemployment rate to rise.

“This is a common phenomenon during an economic recovery,” said Wallace. “As people grow more optimistic about their job prospects, they start looking again.”

Year over year, Washington had 67,800 fewer jobs last month than in March 2009, a 2.4 percent decrease. Nationally, employment was down 1.8 percent compared to a year ago.

An estimated 347,720 people (not seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work, and more than 291,000 people received unemployment benefits from Washington in March.

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