Washington’s unemployment rate fell in February to 5.1 percent, down from 5.3 percent in the previous month, and was the lowest for February in 47 years, state officials said Tuesday.
The rate in Spokane County remained at 5.2 percent, unchanged from January.
The state Employment Security Department said the strong showing was partly the result of the strongest non-farm employment growth on record for a February.
There were job gains in manufacturing, construction, timber and wood products, food products, aircraft and parts, the services industry and health care, the agency said in a news release.
Adjusted seasonally, the rate was half a percentage point below the national rate for the month, the department said.
“Total non-farm wage and salary employment jumped by 22,100 workers, setting a February record,” said Dennis Fusco, the agency’s chief economist. “The average increase over the past five years has been in the range of 15,000 for February.”
The good times didn’t visit all parts of Washington. Columbia County had the highest unemployment rate at 17.4 percent. Whitman had the lowest at 2.3 percent.
In Spokane County, the February rate represented an improvement from last year’s 6.5 percent rate in February, which was itself a step forward from 7.7 percent the year before.
Statewide, manufacturing payrolls inched up 1,200. Lumber and wood products added 200 workers and food and kindred products gained 500.
Aircraft and parts employment expanded by another 200 to 111,600 - up 32,000 from the low in December 1995. But growth has tapered off and Boeing expects some modest cutback in the second half.
Construction was up by 1,100 workers in February with a pick-up predominately on highways and public works - 800 - and masonry and stonework - 300.
Wholesale and retail trade dipped 1,600, led by layoffs in general merchandising, down 2,200, and apparel and accessories, down 1,300.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: County-by-county monthly unemployment rates