State's job openings at three-year high

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In April, job vacancies in Washington state reached their highest point in three years, according to a new report by the Employment Security Department.

An estimated 60,087 vacant jobs were available, an increase of 55 percent from a year earlier and nearly double the number that existed in spring 2009. The last time the survey showed a larger number of vacancies was in spring 2008, when there were nearly 75,000 job vacancies.

“In order for unemployment to come down, we need more jobs and more hiring,” said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause. “This survey shows that employment conditions are gradually improving.”

Job vacancies hit an all-time high in fall 2006, with nearly 91,000 open positions. That number dropped rapidly the ensuing three years, hitting a low point of 32,037 vacancies in fall 2009.

The number of unemployed job seekers declined from a peak of about 337,000 in spring 2010 to around 312,000 at the same point in 2011. At the same time, the total labor force (which includes employed workers and unemployed workers who are actively looking for jobs) also declined, by an estimated 51,926 (seasonally adjusted).

Highlights from Employment Security’s Spring 2011 Job-Vacancy Survey

· About half of the job vacancies were at companies with fewer than 50 employees, while about one-fourth were at companies with more than 250 employees.

· Of the 60,087 job vacancies reported, 14.7 percent (8,834) were newly created positions, mostly at companies with fewer than 20 employees.

· Over the year, vacancies grew in all major industry groups except the information and utilities industries. The healthcare and social assistance industry (10,131), the retail-trade industry (9,502) and the accommodation and food services industry (7,728) had the most vacancies.

· Among occupations, the greatest growth was in food preparation and serving; computer and mathematical positions; healthcare; and office and administrative support.

· Geographically, 62 percent of all job vacancies were in the central Puget Sound region of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

· 55 percent of open jobs required a high school diploma or had no educational requirement. The percentage of vacancies requiring advanced education tends to drop in the spring, as seasonal employment increases.