State added 53,400 jobs in 12 months through May

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter


Updated: June 13, 2012, 5:26 PM


Employers in Washington state added a net 53,400 jobs in the 12 months through May, the state Employment Security Department said Wednesday. However, the state’s estimated unemployment rate rose slightly to 8.3 percent, primarily because more jobless people returned to the labor market to hunt for a job, according to Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a state economist.

The jobless rate is calculated by dividing the estimated number of unemployed people who have looked for work within the past four weeks by the total civilian labor force.

Unemployment rates

Portland metro area unemployment rates for April 2012

Skamania County: 10.4

Columbia County: 9.4

Clark County: 9.0

Oregon: 8.5

Washington: 8.2

Clackamas County: 7.7

United States: 7.7

Multnomah County: 7.5

Washington County: 6.9

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

“In this case, the higher unemployment rate could be a sign that people are feeling more optimistic about their chances of finding a job,” Vance-Sherman said in a news release.

Still, the U.S. job market showed weakness in May, and the number of long-term unemployed people in the nation rose to 5.4 million that month.

In Washington state, the 8.3 percent jobless rate in May was up from April’s revised rate of 8.2 percent. In March, unemployment was 8.3 percent. In May 2011, it was 9.3 percent. In January 2009, the state’s jobless rate was 7.7 percent.

Overall, from May 2011 to May of this year, 10 employment sectors in Washington grew, two receded and one saw no change.

In the private sector, employers added 59,400 jobs. Public-sector employers, however, cut 6,000 jobs, leaving a net gain of 53,400 jobs year over year.

“Government continues to lead all sectors in annual job losses,” according to the state Employment Security Department.

State and local government sectors each shed 2,400 jobs, and federal government employers slashed 1,200 jobs.

Trade, transportation and utilities led all sectors in annual job growth, fattening payrolls by 18,800 jobs. Professional and business services added an estimated 13,400 jobs. Manufacturing swelled by 12,000 jobs, with the aerospace industry accounting for 8,100 of those positions. Other sectors that experienced strong job growth were education and health services (up 5,600 jobs), and leisure and hospitality (up 5,500 jobs).

In May, an estimated 292,600 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. Clark County’s labor market results for May are slated to be released June 19.

In April, Clark County got the first good labor-market news since the financial crash of the late 2000s.

It saw nearly across-the-board job gains that month and added 1,800 jobs in the 12 months through April. Its preliminary unemployment rate that month was 9 percent.

Also in April, all counties in the larger Portland metro region posted lower jobless rates than in the previous two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Washington County, Ore., reported the lowest unemployment rate at 6.9 percent, while Skamania County had the highest at 10.4 percent.

Clark County had the largest unemployment rate decline from April 2011 to April of this year, shaving 4.1 percentage points and posting a preliminary rate of 9 percent.

However, the U.S. job market was sluggish in May as employers added a mere 69,000 jobs and as the nation’s unemployment remained essentially unchanged at 8.2 percent.

“Employment increased in health care, transportation and warehousing, and wholesale trade but declined in construction,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment was little changed in most other major industries.”

Meanwhile, the number of long-term unemployed people in the U.S. (those who’ve been jobless for at least 27 weeks) rose from 5.1 million to 5.4 million in May.

Aaron Corvin:;; 360-735-4518;