State's unemployment rate down slightly in March

Washington Employment Security Department: Washington’s preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March fell one-tenth of one percentage point to 6.1 percent from a revised 6.2 percent in February, Employment Security Commissioner Sylvia P. Mundy announced Tuesday.

The nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.7 percent. Washington’s non-adjusted unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.5 percent in March.

“The state joined the nation in recording employment growth during the month,” Mundy said. “Since last June when the state’s labor force started growing again, employment has increased by 97,700, while the number of unemployed workers declined by 45,700. Still Mundy cautioned that, “The state has a long way to go in its labor market recovery.”

Washington’s nonagricultural wage and salary employment showed a net increase of 20,900 jobs over the month. Almost all major sectors added jobs as the mild labor market recovery augmented normal seasonal hiring. While construction added an impressive 4,200 jobs, manufacturing barely eked out job gains, up only 500 over the month. The Information sector continued its slow recovery adding 400 jobs over the month. As expected, financial activities added jobs (+700) as mortgage interest rates continued at record lows, spurring demand for mortgage refinancing.

Professional and business services were up 3,200 jobs over the month and education and health services were up 1,500 jobs. Retail trade and leisure and hospitality grew slightly more than seasonally expected, up 1,900 and 4,500 respectively. The government was up by a net 2,600 jobs, as increases in state and local education (+3,600) outweighed losses in other local government (-1,400), and as temporary February poll workers left their jobs.

Over the year, jobs were up by 39,500, or 1.5 percent. For most of 2003, the total number of jobs barely exceeded levels in 2002. Starting in November, however, the number of jobs started to climb significantly over year ago levels. At that point, job gains in services began to outweigh the smaller job losses in manufacturing. As of March, 2004, manufacturing is down just 10,800 jobs over the year. The service sector and construction have started to create jobs in earnest.

Large over-the-year gainers include construction (+9,000), retail trade (+6,500), information (+2,300), financial activities (5,500), employment services (+6,100), education and health services (+5,200), and government (7,100). The increases in government come almost totally in state education and local government.