Wash. jobless rate steady at 9.2 pct in November

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2009 3:12 PM

Washington's unemployment rate held fairly steady at 9.2 percent in November, giving state officials hope for a continued economic recovery.

November's unemployment rate was down slightly from October's rate of 9.3 percent, the state said Tuesday. Employment is still declining in Washington overall, but at a slower rate than during the recession's worst months.

"This is positive news," Employment Security Department Commissioner Karen Lee said. "Hopefully, this is another sign that we're turning the corner and on our way out of this recession."

The state's jobless rate has hovered around 9 percent since summer, and the state's chief economist expects it to peak at about 9.8 percent next spring. The national unemployment rate for November was 10 percent.

After accounting for seasonal fluctuations, officials said Washington shed about 4,800 non-farm jobs last month _ the same number of jobs lost in October. The state has lost about 125,600 jobs since November 2008.

At the same time, fewer people are being counted as out of work. That figure can drop as unemployed people move out of the state, retire, or simply stop looking for work.

Goods-producing industries continued to suffer the bulk of job losses last month. Those employers account for about 15 percent of the state's total employment, but their job losses represented about two-thirds of the monthly decline, the state said.

The biggest losses were seen in construction, which lost about 4,300 jobs in November. The leisure and hospitality sector was down about 2,000 jobs, and retail was lower by about 900 jobs.

Job gains were led by the professional and business services sector, which added about 2,800 jobs in November. That was seen as particularly positive because the sector includes temporary staffing, which is closely watched for early signs of life in the job market.

"That's where the first, initial hiring may occur," state labor economist Dave Wallace said. "A permanent hiring decision is such a costly decision for employers that it tends to come later on."

Washington's manufacturing industry also posted its first job gains of the calendar year, adding about 1,100 jobs in November.

State officials estimate more than 321,000 people were unemployed and looking for work last month. The number of people drawing unemployment benefits in November was pegged at about 264,000.