"May's Unemployment Rate Matches 32-year Low for State, Tacoma Area is Unchanged"

Strong job growth and a comparable increase in the labor force kept Washington's unemployment rate nearly steady in May.

“Strong job growth and a comparable increase in the labor force kept Washington’s unemployment rate nearly steady in May – rising just a tenth of a percentage point to 4.5 percent, according to Employment Security Commissioner Carver Gayton.The rate for this May was three-tenths of a percentage point below one year ago, and matched the 32-year low recorded in May of 1998.Continued growth in many key sectors of the economy, especially trade and services, is pulling thousands of workers off the unemployment rolls, Gayton said. The state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate was up a tenth of a percentage point to 4.7 percent compared with the national rate of 4.1 percent.Total nonfarm wage and salary employment increased 34,400 – a much stronger showing that the 20,600 added in May of 1999.Manufacturing payrolls grew by 2,000 compared to a net loss of 100 positions a year ago. Food and kindred products jumped up by 1,200 jobs as the asparagus harvest peaked. Lumber and wood products, up 500, and stone, clay and glass, up 200, experienced seasonal boosts.On the downside, aircraft and parts employment dropped by another 500 positions over the month of May, bringing the cumulative downsizing from the high in July of 1998 to 26,000, or 23 percent of the earlier base.Construction added 4,600 workers with strong gains in general building, up 1,100, heavy construction, up 1,000, and special trades, up 2,500.Wholesale and retail trade climbed by 8,500, led by seasonal boosts in building material and garden supplies, up 800, food stores, up 900, and eating and drinking places, up 3,700.Services employment rose by 7,100, with seasonal buildup in hotels and lodging places, up 900, amusement and recreation, up 1,000, and temporary personnel services, up 1,200.Other significant job gains were centered in computer and data processing services, up 1,100, and health care services, up 600 jobs. An additional 9,300 temporary census workers were added in government.Over the past year, manufacturing payrolls were down 12,800, with most of the loss directly in aircraft and parts, down 13,400. Forest products was off 600 jobs, and seafood processing was down 1,200.Gains came in machinery and electronics production, up 900, fruit and vegetable processing, up 500, and fabricated metals, up 500. Construction added 9,100 workers and wholesale and retail trade grew by 19,200.Services employment swelled by 28,400, led by strong growth in business services, up 14,000, health care, up 4,000, and engineering and management services, up 3,600.Total nonfarm wage and salary employment adjusted in collaboration with the Office of the Forecast Council was up 78,100, or an even 3.0 percent.Statewide, only Ferry County in northeastern Washington posted a not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May higher than 10 percent, coming in at 13.7 percent.Whitman County in eastern Washington reported a 1.6- percent unemployment rate. Pierce County reported a rate of 4.6 percent, with Thurston County at 4.3 percent and Mason at an even 6.0 percent. King County reported a 3.2 percent rate for the month.Tacoma – Pierce CountyLocally, the Tacoma-Pierce County area posted a not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.7 percent for May 2000. Thurston County reported a rate of 4.3 percent, with Mason County at 6.0 percent and Kitsap at 5.1 percent.In nonagricultural wage and salary employment throughout Pierce County, the total number of jobs rose by 1,400 over April’s figures, and 5,500 more than May of 1999.Goods producing categories were flat compared to April, but rose by a total of 400 over the same time last year, with gains in construction of 900 jobs being offset by losses in manufacturing. Nondurable products lost 600 positions, with rubber and miscellaneous plastics products dropping by 300 over the year before, with food and kindred products losing 200 jobs, and textiles, apparel and leather dropping by 100. Durable products manufacturing was down 100 jobs from April, but still up 100 over May of 1999 numbers.Services producing was up 1,400 from April and 5,100 from one year previous. The transportation sector dropped while trade grew. Wholesale trade rose by 700, while retail trade grew by 500 over one year ago.Automotive dealers and service stations rose by 100 over April, but was still down 200 over May 1999. Eating and drinking places was up 200 both over April, and over last year, while other retail trade was down 200 from April, but still up 500 over one year ago.Finance, insurance and real estate was up 100 from April’s figures, but down 200 for the year.The services sector was up 300 from April, and 3,100 positions from May of 1999.Business services was up 100 from April, while posting a decline of 400 from last year’s numbers. Health services were down 100 from April, but reported an increase of 600 over May of 1999.Private educational services was down 100 jobs from April, and dropped 400 from last year’s reported figures.Government employment increased 600 over April, with 1,400 jobs more than May 1999 reported. Federal employment accounted for much of the increase, and included U.S. Census Bureau employment.Local government employment rose by 700 over last year, with 600 of the positions occurring in public schools.A total of 200 Pierce County area workers were yet reported in labor disputes as the Kaiser Aluminum lockout continued well into its second year.The Tacoma-Pierce County nonagricultural workforce equaled 244,700, while the total area workforce was 339,100 for May 2000. A total of 15,800 workers were reported as unemployed for the month.Washington State’s total labor force was 3,083,800 for May, with 139,200 workers unemployed.Comparable May of 1999 figures, not seasonally adjusted, for the state were a total labor force of 3,080,500, with 148,500 unemployed -a rate of 4.8 percent.”

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