State’s jobless rate ticks up to 8.6%

OLYMPIA — Washington state’s unemployment rate increased slightly to 8.6 percent in August, and the state saw a net loss of 1,100 jobs from the previous month, officials announced Wednesday.

The numbers released by the Employment Security Department show that the August unemployment rate increased from the July rate of 8.5 percent, the second consecutive month the state has seen an increase. The national unemployment rate is currently 8.1 percent.

There was some good news in the state’s construction industry, which saw a net gain of 1,900 jobs last month, the most of any sector in the state. Since August 2011, the construction industry has seen a net gain of 3,900 jobs.

Even with the increase, there is still “a long way to go to get construction to a much healthier level,” said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for the state’s Employment Security Department.

At its peak in 2007, construction employment was at 208,000 jobs, now the level is down to about 140,000, Elling said.

The overall monthly job losses are a turnaround from July, which had seen an estimated gain of 5,900 jobs, a number that was revised up from 5,000 since the last employment report.

The employment estimates for the leisure-and-hospitality industry and the wholesale-trade industry showed unusually large losses for August for the second year in a row, losing a combined 4,900 jobs from July to August.

Even with the losses, jobs in the sectors didn’t change significantly, officials said. They cite “seasonal adjustments” of monthly job numbers that are applied to reflect seasonal variations in employment, like summer season or holiday hiring.

A seasonally adjusted “gain” is reflected when an industry adds more jobs or doesn’t eliminate as many jobs as expected based on prior employment reports. A loss is when cuts are deeper than expected, or if normal hiring doesn’t occur.

Elling stressed not to read too much into the month-to-month changes, noting that any measurement error in the two surveys used by the department “can have a big impact.”

“There’s been positive developments when we look at where we’re at in respect to employment to where we were a year ago,” he said.

In August 2011, the state’s unemployment rate was 9.1 percent. Since then, the state has gained a total of 52,700 jobs.

Other industries that saw job gains in August were manufacturing, financial activities, education and health services, and government. In addition to wholesale trade and leisure and hospitality, other sectors that saw losses were retail trade and professional and business services.

An estimated 301,700 people were unemployed and actively looking for work in August, including nearly 130,000 who claimed unemployment benefits that month. More than 3,400 unemployed people ran out of unemployment benefits last month.

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