State jobless rate holds steady

SEATTLE — Washington state’s unemployment rate is holding steady at 6.4 percent and remains at the lowest point in more than five years, the state Employment Security Department said Wednesday.

The unemployment rate held firm from January to February and that combined with growth in payroll numbers indicates Washington’s economy remains in growth mode, state officials said. In the past month, the state’s total labor force of nearly 3.5 million rose by about 10,000 people.

Also in February, Washington added 2,500 new jobs. The number of jobs added in January was also revised upward by 2,000 for a total of 5,800 new jobs in the first month of the year.

Washington’s unemployment rate is below the national rate of 6.7 percent for February.

State officials say the strongest growth in February was in the professional and business services sector with notable gains in architecture and engineering services and administrative and support positions.

In the past year, 54,400 jobs were added statewide.

Washington’s unemployment rate grew as high as 10.2 percent at the start of 2010 but has been falling steadily ever since. The state says about 220,000 people are looking for work, including 96,000 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

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