The Spokesman-Review

Washington state jobs figures show mixed signals

WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 2011, 1:52 P.M.

OLYMPIA — Washington’s economy is slowly adding jobs, but not quickly enough to have a serious impact on the state’s unemployment rate, officials said Wednesday.

In a report Wednesday from the Employment Security Department, economists found mixed signals about the Washington economy for the month of June. The state’s unemployment rate grew to 9.2 percent, up from 9.1 percent in May, even though a separate indicator showed that the state added 3,600 jobs — boosted by a private-sector expansion.

Dave Wallace, the department’s acting chief economist, said the state would have to add roughly 6,000 jobs a month for a year to reduce the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point.

“It’s less than ideal growth, but we are moving forward,” Wallace said. “It’s positive, but not as positive as we’d like it to be.”

The unemployment numbers and the total job numbers come from two different surveys. Both were showing positive signs about the economy in the winter months, but those signals have grown less clear recently.

Washington’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate was as high as 10 percent in February 2010. Although it has fallen since then, it hasn’t been at 9 percent or less in more than two years.

Meanwhile, the state has added jobs for 10 consecutive months, but the pace in recent months has slowed. A report in May initially showed a decline in jobs, although that was revised upward Wednesday to reflect a gain. Wallace said officials were initially too pessimistic about that month.

June’s job growth came from 6,600 new positions in the private sector. Many of those were in a miscellaneous services category that spans everything from religious organizations to advocacy groups. The manufacturing sector — mostly in aerospace — added 1,300 jobs.

Government jobs fell by 3,000, while construction was down 1,800 jobs, according to the report. Economic forecasters are worried that gas prices, the financial crisis in Europe and an economic slowdown in China may hamper the state’s job growth.

Washington had 322,594 people unemployed and looking for work in June.

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