Washington state adds 1,200 jobs from August to September

Unemployment rate stays nearly unchanged

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



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Washington state’s economy added a net 1,200 jobs from August to September, the state Employment Security Department reported Wednesday, as unemployment dropped to 8.5 percent — down from an estimated 8.6 percent a month earlier.

Meanwhile, job gains in the construction industry and in the government sector led to a revision of an initial reported loss of 1,100 jobs in August to a gain of 2,500. Monthly estimates of job gains and losses are based on a survey of businesses.

The revision to the August job numbers illustrates the risk of placing too much importance on preliminary estimates or on one month’s worth of numbers, Joe Elling, the state’s chief labor economist, said in a news release.

“The trend over the past 31 months shows an increasing rate of job growth,” Elling said.

For example, from January through September of 2011, the state’s economy added 31,600 jobs. An estimated 52,300 jobs have been added in the first nine months of 2012.

Nevertheless, the state’s recovery, while relatively better by some measures than the nation’s, has been slow.

“We’re still going through this adjustment in certain sectors,” Elling said during a teleconference with reporters. “Construction employment has picked up, but we’re still at a very depressed level compared to two or three years ago.”

Aerospace helps economy

Washington’s preliminary jobless rate in September — 8.5 percent — compares to 9 percent unemployment in September 2011. Unemployment in Oregon was 8.7 percent last month; a year ago, it was 9.4 percent.

Initial figures showed the U.S. posted a jobless rate of 7.8 percent in September. That compares to 9 percent 12 months earlier.

In Clark County, August’s initial 9.6 percent jobless rate is expected to be revised upward above 11 percent. The county’s labor market results for September are slated for release on Oct. 23.

In Washington state, private sector payrolls declined by 1,500 over the month, in part because of losses in the retail trade sector. But the public sector gained 2,700 jobs — led by an upsurge in local government employment — offsetting the private losses and leaving a net gain of 1,200 jobs.

In the 12 months through September, data show that both the private and public sectors in the state have improved, although private payrolls have grown far more rapidly.

Private sector employment grew 2.4 percent — up an estimated 53,900 jobs over the year. Public sector payrolls increased by 0.9, a net gain of 4,600 jobs.

Altogether, the state’s economy has added a net 58,500 jobs, year over year, with 11 sectors growing, one shrinking and another going unchanged.

Particular sectors have helped drive Washington’s economy into positive territory, Elling said, adding, “Aerospace remains a positive.”

In September, an estimated 296,000 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 126,080 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

Also in September, 3,223 unemployed workers ran out of jobless benefits, bringing the total to 111,892 since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.