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Washington jobless rate at 9.3% despite job growth

OLYMPIA — Washington state has recorded job growth in every month for the past year, but the state’s lofty unemployment rate still showed no signs of shrinking, officials said today.

A report from the Employment Security Department found that the state gained an estimated 3,800 jobs in August, raising the one-year total to more than 46,000. The annual growth helped drive down the unemployment rate through much of 2010, but the rate has come back up in recent months and now sits at 9.3 percent.

The unemployment was at 9.4 percent a year ago and hit a peak of 10 percent at the beginning of 2010.

“How many ways can you say slow, steady progress?” said Dave Wallace, the acting chief economist at the Employment Security Department. “At some point, there will be a tipping point where the constant job growth starts eroding the unemployment rate.”

Wallace has theorized that some workers may be picking up multiple jobs, which would add to one employment figure but fail to improve the overall unemployment rate. He also says the state needs to add roughly 6,000 jobs a month for a year to reduce the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point.

The August report showed that manufacturing posted the largest gain at 3,500 jobs, while the education and health services sectors were up by 2,000. The financial-activities sector led declines with a loss of 2,400 jobs, while wholesale trade was down 1,600.

The private sector has been driving the job growth over the past year, adding more than 53,000 jobs while the government has seen a loss of 6,600 positions.

About 310,000 people were unemployed and looking for work in August.

The jobs report comes a day before a closely watched revenue forecast would be released. It was expected to show a deterioration in the state’s outlook.

State economic forecasters have already lowered their growth projections for the rest of this year, and Gov. Chris Gregorie has asked state agencies to prepare for the possibility of budget cuts as high as 10 percent.

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