SEATTLE, WA - Washington state's unemployment rate is at its lowest point in more than five years.
The state Employment Security Department says the jobless rate fell to 6.6% in December, down from 6.8% in November. The last time the numbers were this low was in November of 2008, when the state's unemployment rate was at 6.5 percent.
The state estimates that Washington added 4,800 jobs between November and December, with a total increase of about 47,000 jobs for the year.
Washington's unemployment rate rose to as high as 10.2 percent at the start of 2010 but has been falling steadily ever since. The state says some 227,900 people are still looking for work. The national unemployment rate was 6.7% in December.
An employment security labor economist in Washington state says the drop in December's unemployment rate was caused primarily by a shrinking labor force as discouraged job seekers stopped looking for work. Nevertheless, Washington state's labor market appeared to be stronger in December than the previous two months.
As usual, job gains and losses varied by industry sector. Big 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.