By Rachel La Corte Associated Press
OLYMPIA, Wash. — New numbers released Wednesday show the state reportedly gained more than 24,000 jobs in January, but state officials believe that number is too high to be accurate.
Economists with the state employment Security Department said that it’s been more than 17 years since the state saw that significant of a gain in job growth in one month, and that the preliminary numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics are likely to be revised.
The average job growth for the state over the past year has been more than 5,000 a month, said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for the department.
“The trend over the past year probably gives us a better idea of what’s happening in the job market,” he said in a prepared statement.
But even if the numbers are ultimately revised down by 30 or 40 percent, “it still would be a healthy month,” Elling said later during a conference call.
“I think the outlook remains pretty favorable for growth in the state economy,” he said. “I feel pretty good about the outlook for this year.”
The job numbers were released Wednesday along with the January unemployment rate, which was unchanged at 7.5 percent, a significant decrease from a year ago, when the rate was 8.5 percent in January 2012.
The unemployment rate in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area was even lower, at 6.3 percent for January.
“The recovery in the state seemed to gain momentum over the course of 2012 compared to the previous two years, with most of the increase centered in the Puget Sound region,” Elling said.
He said that overall, manufacturing had the largest increase from last year, with a gain of 10,600 jobs from January 2012.
That increase was “heavily driven by the aerospace industry,” he said.
The national unemployment rate for January was 7.9 percent. Unemployment numbers for February will be released on March 20.
Industries that had the most gains in January, according to the report, included government, which added an estimated 5,500 jobs, leisure and hospitality, which added 4,600, and retail, which added 4,000. Professional and business services added 3,200 jobs, and construction added 2,300 jobs.
Only one industry lost jobs in January, the private-sector education and health services industry, which saw a decrease of 1,500.
An estimated 261,000 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in January, including more than 151,000 who claimed unemployment benefits.
More than 3,300 unemployed workers ran out of unemployment benefits last month. A total of 128,808 people have exhausted their benefits since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.