State unemployment lowest in four years

Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped four-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 5.9 percent in December to 5.5 percent in January, the lowest monthly rate in four years, Employment Security Commissioner Sylvia P. Mundy announced today. The comparable national rate also fell from 5.4 percent in December to 5.2 percent in January. However, Washington’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 5.9 percent to 6.3 percent in January.

“This was the lowest seasonally adjusted rate since January of 2001 – which was 5.3 percent — and it reflects a continued, if relatively moderate, recovery from the last recession,” Mundy said. “On a seasonally adjusted basis, there were 15,300 fewer people looking for work in January than in December of last year.”

Not seasonally adjusted, total wage and salary employment declined by 55,900 over the month. All major sectors participated in this decline. However, compared to January of 2004 total wage and salary employment was up by 63,300 jobs – a 2.4 percent gain over the year. All major industry sectors showed some gains.

Over the month, the largest employment losses were recorded in the retail trade sector. It lost 19,100 jobs as many temporary workers hired for holiday sales in November and December were laid off in January. Employment in general merchandise stores was down by 6,900 while in clothing and clothing accessories stores employment was down 3,100.

The construction sector showed a seasonal over-the-month decrease of 8,100 workers, but that was less than usual for this time of year. Likewise, the leisure and hospitality sector lost 7,400 jobs, due to the seasonal nature of activities in that industry. Employment in food services and drinking places was down by 5,900 while employment in accommodation facilities was down by 1,000. Government employment also dropped over the month by 4,700.

Federal government lost 600 workers, caused in part by layoffs in postal services. Local government accounted for most of the total government losses. Its payrolls shrank by 4,100 workers, with many of them from local education.
Over the year, wage and salary employment gains were recorded in professional and business services (13,100), retail trade (10,000), education and health services (9,000), and construction (6,400). Even manufacturing showed some strength by adding 6,300 jobs.
The seasonally adjusted nonagricultural wage and salary employment total rose by 10,000 over the month. That indicates the actual drop in employment was less than what would be expected considering seasonal factors.