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Washington adds jobs, but unemployment rising again

 OLYMPIA – Washington’s jobless rate is now trending upward, reaching 9.3 percent in July despite signs that more jobs are available, officials said Wednesday.

 A new Employment Security Department report includes several months of revisions that now show the state’s jobless rate fell to 8.8 percent in March before steadily climbing back up. The rate had been falling through much of 2010 after hitting a peak of 10 percent at the beginning of last year.

 Wednesday’s report shows mixed signals on the state’s employment situation because it found that the number of jobs has grown for 11 consecutive months, including 5,700 new jobs in July. Officials believe the state would have to add roughly 6,000 jobs a month for a year to reduce the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point.

 The unemployment numbers and the total job numbers come from two different surveys, and Employment Security acting chief economist Dave Wallace said it’s possible that some people could be picking up multiple jobs – adding to the jobs number while not aiding the unemployment rate. But Wallace said it’s not clear why there have been several months of mixed signals, with rising jobs along with a rising unemployment rate.

 The report showed monthly job gains in a number of industries – 1,700 jobs in leisure and hospitality; 1,600 jobs in manufacturing; 1,200 jobs in retail trade. There were declines in the “other services” category, which lost 2,200 jobs, and the information sector, which lost 1,000.

 Wallace said those numbers were positive. But his optimism is tempered by the unemployment numbers and uncertainty about the future.

 State economic forecasters have lowered their growth projections for the rest of this year. Preparing for more turbulence in the economy, Gov. Chris Gregoire has asked state agencies to prepare for the possibility of more budget cuts, asking them to prepare plans to trim spending by 5 percent and 10 percent.

 Depending on the details of September’s state revenue forecast , lawmakers could be forced to return to Olympia to reassess the state budget.

Associated Press