OLYMPIA – A small improvement in the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate began in February and was matched in March, according to revised and preliminary estimates by economists with the state’s Employment Security Department.
Earlier this year, economists estimated Washington’s February unemployment rate at 6.4 percent. A subsequent revision reduced that rate to 6.3 percent, which was equaled in March.
The pace of hiring also has quickened. Washington employers added an estimated 6,700 new jobs in March.
“The short-term trend looks good,” said Paul Turek, an Employment Security labor economist. “It’s another small indication that the labor market is getting better. We’re getting job creation, but it’s not gang-busters job creation.”
The March job gains followed additions of 5,800 new positions each during January and February. Economists recently revised an earlier estimate of 2,500 new jobs for February, adding 3,300 positions.
Also in March, the state’s total labor force of nearly 3.5 million expanded by about 9,500, on par with total employment.
During the one-year period ending in March, Employment Security estimates that 60,900 jobs (not seasonally adjusted) were added statewide.
Job gains and losses varied by sector. In March, the biggest job increases occurred in professional and business services, which added an estimated 3,100 jobs. Of those, 2,600 were in administrative and support services, meaning office workers, with 1,400 working for temporary employment agencies.
March also saw a boost of 2,200 jobs in manufacturing, with 1,700 of those making durable goods, meaning products designed to last more than one year. Among those were 400 jobs for fabricated-metal workers.
In the retail sector, the number of jobs increased by 1,800, mostly in online retailing.
Other sectors that reported increased hiring in March included private education and health services, up 1,700 jobs; construction, up 1,600 jobs; transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 1,000; leisure and hospitality, up 800; and information, up 200 jobs.
The sectors reporting the most job losses were government, down 1,800, largely in state government and public education; wholesale trade, also down 1,800 jobs; financial activities, primarily lending and insurance, down 1,100; and other services, down 1,000.
In March, an estimated 219,700 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 93,661 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.