Washington's jobless rate fell to 6.4 percent in January

Washington’s unemployment rate in January was 6.4 percent, the lowest jobless estimate since fall 2008, according to the state’s Employment Security Department.

The state gained about 3,800 jobs during that month, led by growth in construction, a sector that added an estimated 2,500 jobs, according to the recent report.

Labor economists also revised a jobless estimate from last December, moving it upward to 6.7 percent from an initial 6.6 percent.

Employment Security officials report Washington has more jobs today than before the start of the Great Recession, which began on December 2007.

The Employment Security Department and the U.S. Department of Labor also recently completed an annual statistical update—known as “benchmarking”—that adjusts past job estimates with additional employment data from employers’ quarterly tax filings. That process found Washington lost about 189,000 jobs between February 2008 and February 2010, as opposed to the 205,000 lost jobs suggested by previous counts.

The update also indicated the state added more jobs in 2013 that previously measured.

While the state’s declining unemployment rate through 2013 was thought to be caused largely by a shrinking workforce, January’s drop is being attributed to increased hiring, according to Paul Turek, a state labor economist.

In addition to gains the construction sector, jobs also were added in private education and health services, up 2,300; government, up 1,100; transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 900; information, up 800; leisure and hospitality, up 700; manufacturing, up 600; mining and logging, up 200; and other services, up 200.

Job losses were seen in professional and business services, down 2,700; retail trade, down 1,700; wholesale trade, down 600; and financial services, down 500.

Also in January, an estimated 221,900 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That included 105,464 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

The new data are the first indicators of the state’s employment situation this year.

County-level statistics for January are scheduled to be released by the Employment Security Department on Tuesday, March 11.

Stats for February will also be released later this month: State numbers are due out on Wednesday, March 19; county numbers are scheduled to be released on Tuesday, March 25.

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