"Unemployment Inches Up to 4.5 Percent, Less Than Usual Increase Attributed to Tight Labor Market"

Washington State’s unemployment rate inched up a tenth of a percentage point in October.

“Washington State’s unemployment rate inched up a tenth of a percentage point in October from 4.4 percent to 4.5 percent, a less than usual rate that underscored very tight labor markets in many parts of the state, according to Employment Security Commissioner Carver Gayton.“Seasonal cutbacks took place in many resource-based industries, construction, and tourism as fall weather set in,” Gayton said. “The pullback was less than normal, causing the seasonally adjusted jobless rate to fall two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.8 percent. The comparable national average was 4.1 percent – the lowest in 29 years.”Total nonfarm wage and salary employment increased by 8,600 workers compared to 5,200 in the same month one year ago. Manufacturing payrolls declined by 1,700, with seasonal losses characterized as “fairly typical” taking place in lumber and wood products, down 300, paper and allied products, down 300, and food processing, down 500.Ongoing reductions in aircraft and parts dropped another 1,400 off the employment rolls, bringing the cumulative 16-month drawdown from the peak in June of last year to 20,900. Further layoffs in the 1,000-a-month range are expected through January.Overall, the rest of manufacturing was basically flat, according to Dennis Fusco, chief economist for the department.“Construction fell by 1,200 workers, roughly half the usual September-to-October trend,” Fusco said. “Unseasonably mild weather coupled with strong housing and commercial building activity accounted for much of the strength.”Wholesale and retail trade increased in the state by 1,200, with losses in eating and drinking places of 2,100 offset by gains in non-durable wholesaling, up 800, and general merchandising, up 1,500. Services employment dropped by 3,500 led by seasonal dips in hotels and lodging places, down 1,600 and amusement and recreation, down 5,700. Gains were posted in business services, up 600, and engineering and management services, up 900. Public and private education leapt by 29,400 as schools opened for fall term.Over the year, manufacturing payrolls were down 17,700 in October. Losses centered in lumber and wood products, down 1,100 and aircraft and parts, down 19,100. Gains were posted in industrial machinery, up 500, fruit and vegetable processing, up 900, and primary metals, up 1,200.Construction added 9,600 workers and wholesale and retail trade rose by 17,300, with significant expansion reported in durable wholesaling, up 2,700, and eating and drinking places, up 7,600.Services employment grew by 23,500 led by strong growth in business services, up 8,700, social services, up 3,100, and engineering and management services, up 3,000.Total Washington State nonfarm wage and salary employment was up 47,100 or 1.8 percent.Columbia County in southeast Washington posted the highest unemployment rate in the state, at 11.7 percent not seasonally adjusted. It was the only county reporting a rate higher than 10 percent. Ferry County to the north, posted a rate of 8.5 percent with Pend Oreille County in the northeast corner of the state posted a rate of 8.3 percent.Whitman County reported an enviable 1.5- percent unemployment rate for October, while Asotin County in the far southwest corner of the state posted a 2.4 percent rate and Garfield County followed at 2.9 percent unemployment.In western Washington, San Juan County reported a rate of 2.5 percent, with King County at 3.4 percent.Pierce County reported an unadjusted rate of 4.7 percent, even with Thurston County’s rate for the month. Mason and Kitsap counties also tied each other at a non-adjusted rate of 5.3 percent for October.The Pierce County labor force was reported at 337,700 for the month, with 16,000 unemployed. The total labor force was up from 333,800 in September, with 15,400 unemployed, and from the 336,000 of a year ago, with 15,700 unemployed at that time. The non-adjusted unemployment rate of 4.7 percent in Pierce County matches that of one year ago.In nonagricultural wage and salary employment in Pierce County, the total workforce was down 600 from September’s numbers, but up 1,900 from one year ago.Construction employment in Pierce County rose 800 in the past year, while manufacturing dropped 1,600 over one year ago. Durable products manufacturing led the decline with a loss over the past year of 1,100 positions.The services producing segment of the county workforce grew 2,700 over October of 1998 figures. While retail trade dropped 1,000 from one year ago, and wholesale trade employment remained flat, growth in other services categories offset the decline, with finance, insurance and real estate services gaining 600, and other services increasing by 2,400 positions.Government employment in Pierce County grew by 400 over one year ago, with the largest increases coming in state employment.A total of 200 workers were still listed in the labor disputes tally as Kaiser Aluminum’s labor problems entered their second year in October.Thurston County posted a resident labor force of 102,900 for October, with 4,800 unemployed. The labor force in the county has risen from 99,300 reported one year ago, while the unemployment rate has dropped from 5.1 percent to 4.7 percent during the past 12 months.Mason County reported a total labor force of 21,940, with 1,170 unemployed. The labor force there has declined from 21,960 in October 1998, but the unemployment rate has also declined, from 5.7 to 5.3 percent.The total resident labor force in Washington was reported at 3,121,000, with 139,600 unemployed, a non-adjusted rate of 4.5 percent. The total labor force was up from 3,087,900 in September, and up from the 3,089,900 reported in October 1998.The state’s unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged from one year ago.”

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