Jobless rate, job numbers keep baffling experts

  • HBJ staff
  • Wednesday, May 16, 2012 10:16am

OLYMPIA — Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent in March to an estimated 8.1 percent in April, despite losing an estimated 300 jobs during the same period.

The Washington Employment Security Department said the mixed results are derived from separate surveys: The survey that’s used to calculate the unemployment rate showed job gains, while the survey that’s used to calculate job numbers showed a loss.

“It’s always confounding when the surveys produce contradictory results,” Dave Wallace, senior economist at the Employment Security Department, said in a news release. “Based on experience over the past several months, the job numbers are likely to be revised.”

For example, the 10,700 job loss originally estimated for December 2011 was revised later to a loss of just 100; the original estimate of a 13,200 job gain in January 2012 was later revised upward to a gain of 14,700; February’s preliminary gain of 4,200 jobs was later revised down to a gain of 1,700; and March’s estimated gain of 3,300 jobs has now been revised to a gain of 4,900 jobs.

Snohomish County employment data will be released May 22.

Since original estimates often are revised substantially, Wallace stressed the importance of not placing too much emphasis on a single month of data.

“From month to month, the numbers bounce around a little. But when we look at data over several months and years, we get a better picture of the economy — and it’s continuing to improve,” he said.

In fact, April’s estimated unemployment rate is the lowest since January 2009, when it was 7.7 percent and rising.

Industry sectors that added the most jobs in April were manufacturing, up an estimated 2,900 jobs (seasonally adjusted); other services, up 900; and professional and business services, which added 600 jobs.

Industry sectors that lost the most jobs in April included government, which lost an estimated 2,300 jobs; transportation, warehousing and utilities, down 1,300; education and health services, down 900; and leisure and hospitality, which lost 500 jobs.

The breakout in the government-sector job loss includes state agencies, which eliminated an estimated 700 jobs; local government (not including K-12 schools), down 700 jobs; federal government, which shed 600; and higher education, down 400 jobs. Only K-12 schools grew, by an estimated 100 jobs.

Based on the latest quarterly benchmarking through December 2011, the state has regained an estimated 88,200 jobs since the low point of the recession.

In April, an estimated 285,800 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work, and Employment Security paid $256 million in unemployment benefits to 184,486 people.

As of May 5, 89,815 workers in Washington had run out of all unemployment benefits.