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State Employment Security workers face layoffs

OLYMPIA – Washington’s lower unemployment rate means more jobs in many parts of the economy, but layoffs for the people who help the unemployed.

The state Employment Security Department notified 149 workers today they face layoffs this fall. The reason: “The economy is improving and the federal funding is being reduced,” Janelle Guthrie, a department spokeswoman, said.

The department gets about 86 percent of its funding from the federal government, which is cutting back what it sends Washington by $10 million in the coming fiscal year because of declining caseloads. The state’s unemployment rate for July was 5.6 percent, the lowest since August 2008, down from 5.8 percent in June and 7 percent the previous July.

Those 149 workers got “at risk packets,” which means they could be laid off; under state employment rules, they could also “bump” someone with less seniority out of a similar job or take a job with a lower classification and lower pay. That could result in the person holding that job being laid off, or bumping someone even less senior. Guthrie said the department won’t know the exact number of job losses until closer to the Oct. 15 deadline.

The notices represent slightly less than 10 percent of the department’s workforce and went out to people around the state. They include 80 people in Work Source Centers, where department employees work with unemployed people to help them get back to work; 23 who work with unemployed insurance claims; 32 who work with businesses in the unemployment insurance tax center and five other positions around the agency.

Guthrie said department workers are still busy, but Employment Security’s jobs are “counter cyclical.” That is, when the economy was tanking, the department was hiring and when companies are hiring it’s laying off.

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