State's unemployment rate up in April, even as more people enter workforce

Washington’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April rose two-tenths of one percentage point to 6.3 percent, Employment Security Commissioner Sylvia P. Mundy announced earlier this week.

The nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.6 percent. Washington’s non-adjusted unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 6.3 percent in April.

“At this stage of the recovery, the slight increase in the unemployment rate in Washington is not necessarily a bad sign,” Mundy said. “As labor market conditions continue to improve, unemployed workers who have dropped out of the labor force will begin to look for work. This appears to be what happened in April as both the number of employed and unemployed rose on a seasonally adjusted basis.”

Washington’s nonagricultural wage and salary employment showed a net increase of 21,700 jobs over the month. All major sectors added jobs as normal seasonal hiring was bolstered by what now looks like a labor market in recovery. Gains were particularly strong in construction (+4,500), which was up across the board in seasonal hiring. Other gains included food processing (+1,200), due to seasonal increases; professional and business services (+3,400), with a gain of 800 in employment services, and leisure and hospitality (+5,100), with gains of 3,000 jobs in food and drinking places. Manufacturing created jobs for the second month in a row, up 1,500 in April after an increase of 200 in March. The information sector was also up in April by 400 jobs, with 100 of the increase coming in the beleaguered telecommunications sector.

Over the year, jobs were up by 48,400, or 1.8 percent, which is up from March’s over-the-year increase of a revised 40,700. Over-the-year numbers give a better sense of the stage of the recovery than do the month-to-month changes, which are highly influenced by seasonal variations. Manufacturing was still down over the year, but by an ever-smaller amount, (-9,700). Aerospace, its principle sub-sector, was down over the month by 100 and over the year by 5,100. All other major sectors have added jobs since April 2003.

Construction was up by 9,100 (6.1 percent), retail and wholesale trade by 8,600 jobs (2.1 percent), transportation, warehousing and utilities by 4,200 (4.9 percent), information by 3,400 (3.7 percent), and financial activities by 5,200 (3.4 percent). Professional and business services was up by 11,100 (9 percent) – with a noteworthy gain of 6,500 jobs in employment services, – education and health services by 4,900 (1.6 percent), leisure and hospitality by 1,800 (0.7 percent), and government by 8,500 (1.6 percent). The increase in government employment came in state and local education and other local government services.

While construction and other seasonal activity has helped to push employment in the Tacoma metropolitan area up over the year, the unemployment rate remains at 6.7 percent, unchanged from last month, and 0.4 points above the statewide level, and 1.3 points above the national rate. (The unemployment rates mentioned are not seasonally adjusted. The seasonally adjusted rate for the U.S. was 5.6 percent, and for Washington state was 6.3 percent. No seasonally adjusted rate for the Tacoma-Pierce County area is available.)

Trends in the Tacoma area economy remain different from those for the state or nation; however, rising to be significantly off over the year, and Tacoma manufacturing remains essentially flat.

The military bases are contributing stability to the local economy throughout the past year. Overseas deployments from bases have affected the local economy, however, returning troops being cycled back into Fort Lewis will provide a boost to retail and service sectors.