State unemployment rate falls to 6.8%

First the good news: Washington state’s unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point in November to 6.8 percent, reversing an October uptick led by the federal government shutdown.

Now the bad news: The decline in November joblessness was driven by a shrinking labor force and accompanied by a loss of 6,000 jobs statewide, according to data released Wednesday by the Employment Security Department.

“November typically is not a robust month for employment, so we weren’t expecting to see a big turnaround,” said state labor economist Paul Turkek. “The jobs data show there’s still some lingering weakness in the state’s labor market.”

The number of estimated workers who were unemployed last month in Washington declined by 6,700, while the labor force shrank by 4,700 people.

As in prior months, the jobs decline, which takes into account seasonal variations, appeared to be caused by weak hiring rather than a surge in layoffs.

On a year-over-year basis, Washington added about 34,600 jobs and has recovered 78 percent of the 205,000 jobs lost in the recession.

The state’s leisure and hospitality sector gained 1,400 jobs last month, followed by financial activities, up 600; information, up 400; and retail trade, up 300.

The government sector lost 4,600 jobs, while manufacturing shed 1,400 jobs and construction eliminated 1,100 jobs.

Unemployment in the Seattle area, which includes Bellevue and Everett, declined to 5.6 percent in November from 5.7 percent in October, stopping a four-month rise in local joblessness.


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