State jobless rate stays flat at 8.3 percent

OLYMPIA — Washington state’s unemployment rate for March remained flat at 8.3 percent, but the state added 3,300 jobs last month, marking the third consecutive month of growth, officials said Wednesday.

The new rate for March matched the upwardly revised rate for February, the state’s Employment Security Department said. The state’s jobless rate is slightly higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent.

“While the pace was somewhat disappointing, at least we’re moving in the right direction,” said senior economist Dave Wallace.

Wallace said that there has been job growth in 18 of the last 19 months, with the exception of December.

Industries that had the most job growth last month included government, retail trade and manufacturing. Most of the government-sector job growth was seen in schools and higher education, while state agencies and the federal government lost jobs.

Only two industry sectors lost jobs: education and health services; and transportation, warehousing and utilities.

More than 289,000 people were unemployed and looking for work in March, down from a peak of more than 365,000 in February 2010. More than 189,000 people received unemployment benefits last month.

As of April 7, more than 77,000 workers in the state had exhausted all of their unemployment benefits. An additional 12,500 will lose their benefits by the end of this week because of an automatic end of extended benefits because of a sustained decrease in the state’s unemployment rate. By mid-June, another 11,000 people will likely run out of benefits, officials said.

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