OLYMPIA – Washington has gained back the jobs it lost during the Great Recession and is adding jobs each month at a rate comparable to the height of the last economic boom.
Figures released Wednesday by the state Employment Security Department put the state unemployment rate at 6.1 percent, down two-tenths of 1 percent from March and the lowest it has been since October 2008. Over the past three months, Washington added an average of about 6,900 jobs per month, a rate comparable to the period between 2005 and 2007 “when the economy was expanding,” said Paul Turek, a labor department economist.
About 210,600 people are unemployed and looking for work, down about 9,000 from March, and 82,825 claimed unemployment benefits.
“The economy has been building up some momentum,” Turek said. “The general thinking is for this to continue for at least two years, maybe three.”
That’s if something economists call “unforeseen events” don’t come along to derail it.
The state has seen stronger demand for jobs in professional and business services, which covers a wide range of jobs from accountants to office workers to custom computer programmers. Retail jobs increased, although not necessarily because more stores are opening. Many of those jobs are from Internet retail businesses, and Amazon is in the middle of an expansion in Seattle’s South Lake Union area.
“As the economy grows, there’s growth in retail trade and growth in leisure and hospitality for jobs in things like food services,” Turek said.
Jobs also increased in health services, but with an aging population, that’s a sector that has been immune to downturns in the economy. “It’s demographics, not economics,” Turek said.
The government and manufacturing sectors both lost jobs. Construction jobs are up, although financial services jobs are down, possibly a result of higher prices for homes and increases in interest rates that price some home buyers out of the market.
“Houses are being built. Houses are not necessarily being sold,” he said.