Wet August Weather Prevents State Jobless Rate From Dropping

Washington’s unemployment rate stayed flat at 5.7 percent in August as seasonal agricultural hiring fell below expectations, the Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

The unemployment rate remained relatively low after several months of decline, but the lack of the usual seasonal drop from July to August left it above the 5.4 percent level of a year ago. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 6.5 percent, almost a percentage point above the 5.6 percent national average.

“Unseasonably cool, damp weather this year delayed harvests and in the most recent month pushed the peak of the pear crop beyond the normal reporting week,” said Employment Security Commissioner Vernon E. Stoner.

“Since the hiring wasn’t counted in August, the rate came in higher than expected. When you look at the non-agricultural areas of the state, the normal patterns pretty much hold.”

Spokane’s unemployment rate for August was 4.8 percent, down slightly from the revised July figure of 4.9 percent, but up from the August, 1994, rate of 4.3 percent.

Fred Walsh, regional labor economist with Employment Security, said the half-point increase over August last year is reflective of population growth.

“We have more people in the labor force,” Walsh said. “Both unemployment and employment have gone up.”

In August, 186,900 people were employed in the Spokane metro area, compared with 179,700 in August of 1994. This year, 9,400 were unemployed during the month, while the August, 1994, figure was 8,000.

Statewide, total non-farm wage and salary employment increased by 2,200 workers in August - less than last year but on par with the average for 1992-93.

Manufacturing payrolls alone jumped by 2,700 workers, primarily because of seasonal gains in food processing (+2,800) and additional capacity in both heavy machinery production and electronics.

Employment in aircraft and parts finally leveled off after dropping 800 workers a month on average over the past five years and 5,100 in July.

Construction employment rose by 2,200 workers in August as the building industry moved to its seasonal high.

Wholesale and retail trade also jumped seasonally by 5,000 workers. Services employment expanded by 3,000, mostly on the strength of seasonal hiring in business services.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map: County-by-county monthly unemployment rates

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