State’s jobless rate drops to 6.8 percent in May

OLYMPIA — Washington state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent last month and the state added an estimated 4,100 jobs, officials with the Employment Security Department said Wednesday.

The May jobless rate is down from April’s rate of 7 percent, and well below the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. Economists say that Washington state’s unemployment rate has fallen by 0.7 percentage points since the start of the year, and it is now the lowest since November 2008, when the rate was 6.5 percent.

“Washington’s labor market is continuing to recover and expand at a modest rate,” Paul Turek, a labor economist for Employment Security, said in a written statement.

Since May 2012, when Washington state’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent, the state has gained more than 60,000 jobs.

Industries that saw the most job gains in May included government, which saw an increase of 3,200 jobs, education and health services, up 2,500 jobs, and leisure and hospitality, up 1,500. Manufacturing, professional and business services, and other services saw the most losses, along with construction. Officials said that most of the increase in government jobs occurred in higher education and state government.

The state has regained more than 162,000 of the 205,000 jobs it lost during the recession. However, nearly 237,000 people were still unemployed and looking for work last month, including more than 119,000 who claimed unemployment benefits.

Two different surveys are used to calculate unemployment figures and job losses. The unemployment rate represents the percentage of the labor force that’s unemployed and actively looking for work. People who quit 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.

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