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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Fewer people hunt for jobs in the state, causing jobless rate to fall to 7.6 percent

Washington’s state unemployment rate dropped to a seasonally adjusted 7.6 percent rate in December. That's the lowest point in four years and down slightly from the revised seasonally adjusted rate of 7.7 percent in November.

But it's not all good news. The state's Employment Security Department economists say declines in the unemployment rate have been due largely to a shrinking labor force, as unemployed job seekers stop looking for work.

“Our population is growing and we’ve regained more than half of the jobs lost during the recession, but the number of people in the labor force has been declining,” said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for Employment Security. “When the labor force shrinks, it artificially lowers the unemployment rate.”

The total number of employed and unemployed workers in Washington has fallen 60,000 since employment reached its low point in February 2010, about half of that in the past year. Meanwhile, the total number of jobs has grown by about 115,000 in the past three years, out of a recession loss of about 205,000 jobs.

Preliminary data for December 2012 show a total drop of 7,900 jobs. Elling said there was weak response to the employer survey in December, and the number may be revised when late-arriving data are factored in.

For a fuller profile of the gains and losses in job sectors, look for today's online business story at

The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.