Washington gained 54,900 jobs in 12 months through February

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Employers in Washington state added a net 54,900 jobs in the 12 months through February, lowering the unemployment rate for that month to an estimated 8.2 percent, the state Employment Security Department reported Wednesday.

February’s jobless rate was the lowest since January 2009, when it was 7.7 percent. The state’s January unemployment rate was 8.4 percent.

In the private sector, employers added 62,200 jobs between February 2011 and 2012. Public sector employers, however, shed 7,300 jobs, leaving a net gain of 54,900 jobs year over year.

Industries that saw the most job growth were leisure and hospitality (up 2,500 jobs); construction (up 1,900); retail trade (up 1,700); transportation, warehousing and utilities (up 1,500); and professional and business services (up 1,100).

Industries that experienced the most job losses included government (down 1,400 jobs), manufacturing (down 900), financial activities (down 700) and information (down 500).

Clark County’s labor market report for February is slated for release March 27.

As a result of the state’s improved unemployment rate, the maximum number of weeks of jobless benefits will likely be reduced from 99 to 73 in mid- to late April. Federal benefits extension programs are triggered by states’ unemployment rates. The Employment Security Department said it will announce the timing and more details about the change after it receives official notice from the U.S. Department of Labor.