State adds 6,700 new jobs

By Rachel La Corte Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state added an estimated 6,700 jobs in March and the unemployment rate is holding steady at 6.3 percent, according to a report released Wednesday by the state Employment Security Department.

Officials said that the rate matches February’s jobless numbers, which had been revised down from an original estimate of 6.4 percent.

“The short-term trend looks good,” said Paul Turek, a labor economist with the department. “It’s another small indication that the labor market is getting better. We’re getting job creation, but it’s not gang-busters job creation.”

The biggest job gains in March were seen in professional and business services, which added an estimated 3,100 workers, of which 2,600 were in office jobs like administrative and support services. Other sectors that saw big gains included manufacturing, which added 2,200 jobs last month, and retail, which saw a boost of 1,800 jobs, mostly related to online retail. Other areas that saw job gains were: private education and health services, construction, transportation, warehousing and utilities, leisure and hospitality, and information.

Job losses were seen in government, wholesale trade, financial activities and other services.

Washington’s unemployment rate is below the national rate of 6.7 percent for March. State officials said the unemployment rate in the Seattle-Everett-Bellevue area of Western Washington inched up slightly to 5.2 percent from February’s rate of 5.1 percent.

Two different surveys are used to calculate unemployment figures and job losses and gains. The unemployment rate represents the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed and actively looking for work. People who have stopped looking for work are not counted. The job gains and losses estimates are based on a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of businesses.

Turek said that the state’s total labor force of nearly 3.5 million expanded by about 9,500 last month, indicating more people are starting to look for work.

Employment gains were “improving the confidence of workers who have been sitting out and are now moving into the labor force to try and find better job prospects,” he said.

Officials said that during the one-year period ending in March, nearly 61,000 jobs have been added statewide, including more than 18,000 since the start of the year.