"February Unemployment Grows Two-tenths of a Percent, Still Close to a Historic Low"

Normal seasonal factors helped push Washington's unemployment rate up two-tenths of one percentage point in February to 5.4 percent.

“Normal seasonal factors helped push Washington’s unemployment rate up two-tenths of one percentage point in February. The rate reached 5.4 percent, according to Employment Security Commissioner Carver Gayton.January and February traditionally vie for the highest unemployment rate of the year, Gayton said. The rate remains historically low with February’s jobless count measuring three-tenths of a percentage point below a year ago and just a tenth of a percentage point above the 32-year low for the month chalked up two years ago.Seasonally adjusted, the statewide jobless rate crept up two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.7 percent compared to 4.1 percent nationally.Total nonfarm wage and salary employment increased by 17,400 over the month to 2,632,400. Construction began rebounding from the winter doldrums with industry gains of 1.400, mostly in special trades, up 1,000.Services added 9,200 workers, led by a strong expansion in business services, up 1,400, and private education, up 2,200. Amusement and recreation rose 1,300 and engineering and management services grew by 1,100.Wholesale and retail trade was hit with a 1,000-worker loss, with the gains of 1,400 in eating and drinking establishments countered by post-January sales layoffs in general merchandising, down 1,500, and apparel and accessories, down 1,600.Public education added the 4,800 workers temporarily furloughed in December and January. Meanwhile, manufacturing dropped by 500 workers. Aircraft and parts sliced another 1,100 workers, while the rest of manufacturing added 600.Forest products grew by 100; machinery and electronics rose by 200; and food processing expanded by 400. Textiles and apparel was cut by 200.Losses in aircraft and parts over the past 19 months total 24,300, a 21 percent reduction from the high of 113,400 on the payroll in July 1998.Over the past period of one year, manufacturing payrolls were down 16,600, with most of the loss attributed to aircraft and parts, down 17,700. Forest products and food processing were both down by 400 positions.Gains came in machinery and electronic, up 700, petroleum and plastics, up 400, and primary and fabricated metals, up 400. Construction nailed an additional 8,900 jobs and wholesale and retail trade swelled by 17,900.Services employment jumped by a total of 25,700, led by a strong growth in business services, up 11,900, engineering and management services, up 4.600, and health care, up 3,100.Total nonfarm wage and salary employment statewide adjusted in collaboration with the Office of the Forecast Council was up 48,800 or 1.9 percent.Pierce County and South Sound UnemploymentThe number of nonagricultural jobs in Pierce County grew by 6,600 during the one-year period ending February 29, 2000. The total, up 2,000 from January, rose to 240,800. Figures on nonagricultural wage and salary employment for the county show healthy gains in many categories of employment in the county. Goods producing jobs rose by 400 over one year ago to a total of 38,700. Construction jobs increased by 200 with a loss of 100 positions in buildings and heavy construction during the past year being more than offset by a gain of 300 in special trade contractors within that same period. Manufacturing, which saw some minor decreases in February compared to January’s numbers, crawled up only 200 positions over the previous year’s 24,200 jobs. Nondurable products manufacturing lost a total of 700 jobs during the year, with the greatest losses coming in food and kindred products, down 400, and rubber and miscellaneous plastics products, down 300. Durable products manufacturing rose by 900 to counter those losses, with metals, primary and fabricated rising 500 positions during the past year, while lumber and wood products and other transportation equipment manufacturing both rose by 200 each since February 1999. The services producing sector exploded by 6,200 jobs during the past year – with a gain of 2,000 positions just from January’s numbers. The total number of services producing positions now totals 202,100. Within the services producing sector, trade increased by 600 jobs over the past year, with wholesale trade increasing by 200 and retail trade growing by 400. Eating and drinking places rose by 700 over 1999’s figures, and by 200 over January 2000 statistics. Services employment rose by 4,300 positions over the year, with 1,400 new services jobs being added since January. Health services added 800 positions over the year, with other health services adding 700 during the same period. Private educational services increased by 800 over January’s numbers bringing February’s total to 300 more than the previous year. Other services rose by 500 jobs over January, with a total increase of 3,200 over February 1999. Government employment rose by a total of 500 in February, 1,200 over last year’s numbers. Federal employment was down for the year by 200, with the U.S. Postal Service adding 200 to compensate. Other federal hiring was down by 300 positions for the year, adding to a loss of 100 positions by the Department of Defense. The state increased hiring here by 100 jobs during the past year, and local government adding 1,300 employees over last year for February’s numbers – 1,000 being in public school educational services. The Pierce County not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.1 percent for February 2000 was virtually unchanged from February 1999. The rate for Thurston County was at 4.8 percent, up 0.2 percent from January, but down from last year’s 5.3 percent rate.”

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