April jobless rate drops to 7% in Wash. state

OLYMPIA — Washington state’s unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent in April, and the state added an estimated 3,800 jobs last month, according to numbers released Wednesday.

The state has now regained about 78 percent of the more than 200,000 jobs lost during the recession, officials with the state Employment Security Department said.

The state’s unemployment rate has fallen by half a percentage point since the start of the year, with April’s rate down from March’s 7.3 percent. The state’s jobless rate is now the lowest since December 2008, when it was at 7.1 percent.

The state “labor market is continuing to improve at a moderate but accelerating rate, somewhat faster than the nation,” Scott Bailey, a labor economist for Employment Security, said in a written statement.

The national unemployment rate for April was 7.5 percent.

Since April 2012, when Washington state’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent, the state has gained a total of 67,200 jobs.

The latest figures show that economists significantly revised job loss numbers for March from an initial estimate of 5,500 down to 1,600 jobs.

Industries that saw the greatest job gains in April included retail trade, up 3,800 jobs; leisure and hospitality, up 1,600 jobs; and professional and business services, which gained 1,500 jobs.

Job losses were seen in education and health services, which lost 2,500 jobs; construction, down 1,100; and transportation, warehousing and utilities, which lost 500 jobs. Wholesale trade saw a decrease of 300 jobs.

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.

A drop in the unemployment rate sometimes indicates a drop in the labor force because of so-called discouraged workers who have stopped actively looking for work or just retired early. But in a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Bailey said that was not the case for April.

“This is a pure positive trend that we’re looking at right now,” he said.

While job growth may continue in the coming months, there may not be a corresponding improvement with the unemployment rate because previously discouraged workers will start looking for work again, Bailey said.

More than 243,000 people were unemployed in the state and looking for work last month, including nearly 130,800 who claimed unemployment benefits. A total of 138,997 people have exhausted their benefits since extended relief was activated in July 2008.

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