Statewide unemployment fell in March, but job growth stalled

Washington state’s unemployment rate in March dropped to the lowest level since December 2008, according to initial estimates from the state’s Employment Security Department. But the latest numbers also showed mixed signals in Washington’s job growth.

The state’s March unemployment rate dipped to 7.3 percent after three straight months of it holding at 7.5 percent.

Yet as Febraury’s initial gain of 4,000 jobs was revised upward to 5,500, economists estimated the state lost an equal number of jobs in March.

Labor economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman said there has been a lot of volatility in recent job-survey results, but the overall trend in the past year has shown job growth and a slowly decreasing unemployment rate.

Industries with the most estimated job gains in March were education and health services, up 1,800; manufacturing, up 900; retail, up 500; construction, up 400; and wholesale trade, up 200.

Industries showing the most job losses last month included government, down 4,600 jobs; professional and business services, down 2,500; other services, down 1,000; financial activities, down 900; and information, down 200. Within the government sector, 1,500 of the job losses were in state agencies; 1,300 were in public higher education; 1,200 were in local government, mostly in K-12 schools; and 600 were from federal employment.

In March, an estimated 254,000 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 136,524 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

Also in March, 3,161 unemployed workers ran out of unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 135,236 since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.

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