State unemployment rate drops for fourth straight month

OLYMPIA — Washington’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent in January, continuing a string of positive labor reports for the state.

“These numbers show that our economy is gaining strength, and that’s great news to start the new year,” Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause saidtoday.

December’s unemployment rate was 8.6 percent. Dave Wallace, the Employment Security Department’s acting chief economist, said the state has now seen four straight months of job gains.

The state gained about 13,200 jobs last month. Industry sectors that had the most job growth in January were professional and business services, which added 5,500 jobs; retail trade, up 2,700 jobs and education and health services, up 2,300 positions.

Industries with the most job losses were government, down 1,100, and mining and logging, down 200.

Earlier this week, federal data showed that Washington gained more jobs last year than previously estimated, and unemployment rates in the latter half of 2011 were slightly better than initially thought.

Washington gained about 53,500 jobs in 2011, compared to the 26,600 jobs previously reported, state officials said.

The number of people in Washington that were unemployed and looking for work in January was about 291,400 — a seasonally adjusted figure. As of Feb. 25, 74,616 workers in Washington had run out of all unemployment benefits, the Employment Security Department said.

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