Washington Posts All-Time Lowest January Unemployment Rate on Record – 5.2 Percent

“Unemployment in Washington hit an all-time record low for the month of January this year – with a rate of 5.2 percent.The unemployment rate rose nearly a full percentage point during January, due to regular seasonal changes, according to the state, but was still nearly a half a percentage point below one year ago.It was the lowest January since official record keeping began in 1947, said Employment Security Commissioner Carver Gayton. Only two years came close to this year’s milestone. In 1951 during the Korean War, the rate reached 5.3 percent and in 1966, at the height of the Boeing Boom, it was 5.6 percent. The rate peaked at a 13.2 percent high in 1982.Seasonally adjusted, the statewide rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.5 percent compared to 4.0 percent nationally.Total nonfarm wage and salary employment dropped by 64,200, as a result of post-Christmas layoffs in retailing and seasonal cuts in construction and services.Wholesale and retail trade dropped sharply by 24,600 jobs. Services were down 15,600, with seasonal losses spread across the board. Some of the heaviest impacted sectors were temporary help services, down 5,400, health care, down 1,400, and hotels and lodging places, down 2,000.Public and private education dropped by 3,900 jobs, with some schools between semesters.Manufacturing payrolls fell by 4,800, led by fairly typical seasonal losses in lumber and wood products, down 600, food processing, down 1,600, and stone, clay and glass, down 300.Aircraft and parts manufacturing dropped by another 1,100 in January. The state Office of the Forecast Council is projecting a further 5,000-worker reduction through June 20011, with the possibility of a modest upturn starting in the second half of next year.The ongoing lockout at Kaiser Aluminum facilities statewide continued into its 16th month, impacting 2,100 workers in the aluminum industry.For the year, manufacturing payrolls were down 16,800 statewide, with losses centered in aircraft and parts – down 18,400. Lumber and wood products, down 200, and food processing, down 100, were essentially flat during the year.Significant gains have come in machinery and electronics, up 700, and primary and fabricated metals, up 600. Construction swelled by 7,900 and wholesale and retail trade expanded by 17,800. Services employment increased by 25,000, led by strong growth in business services, up 12,200, social services, up 2,800, and engineering and management services, up 4,200.Total nonfarm wage and salary employment for January adjusted in collaboration with the Office of the Forecast Council was up 39,900 or 1.5 percent.Tacoma-Pierce County EmploymentTotal nonagricultural wage and salary employment figures for Tacoma and Pierce County were at 238,600 for January, down 4,700 from December 1999, but up 6,000 over the previous year.The goods producing sector was off 900 jobs from December 1999, remaining flat for the year at 38,500 workers. Construction declined 600 jobs from December’s numbers and down a total of 100 jobs from January 1999.Manufacturing, while down 300 from December 1999, was up 100 jobs over the same time in 1999. Declines in nondurable products, down 800 positions, included losses in food and kindred products, down 400, rubber and miscellaneous plastics products, down 300, and textiles, apparel and leather, down 100. Paper and allied products; printing, publishing and allied; and chemicals, petroleum and allied products, all remained virtually unchanged from the past month – and from one year previous.Compared to January 1999 figures, durable products posted some minor losses in machinery, computers, electronic and electrical equipment and other durable manufacturing, but showed a strong gain for the year of 500 in metals, primary and fabricated, as well as gains of 200 each in lumber and wood products; stone, clay, glass and concrete products; and other transportation equipment manufacturing.The services producing sector, while showing seasonal losses of 3,800 from December 1999 totals posted a gain of 6,000 jobs from January 1999. Trade, down 1,800 positions from December due to a loss of 200 jobs in wholesale trade and 1,600 jobs in retail trade, was still up 1,200 workers for the one-year period. Eating and drinking places posted a strong gain of 1,000 positions, with retail trade growing by 900 in the past one-year period.Services employment dropped by 1,500 from December’s figures, but gained 3,400 employees during the past year. Health services accounted for 800 of the gain, with business services down 300 since January 1999. Other services gained 2,600 workers during that same period.Government hiring was up 1,300 from one year ago, with the strongest gains in local government – up a total of 1,200 – with the largest gain of 800 positions in public schools.As the Kaiser lockout continued, 200 workers remained impacted in Pierce County.Statewide Highs & LowsWhile January numbers are the lowest on record statewide, a large number of counties are posting not seasonally adjusted unemployment rates above 10 percent.Columbia County posted the highest unemployment rate for January at 17.7 percent. Following Columbia was Adams at 15.1 percent; Klickitat at 13.5 percent; Franklin at 13.3 percent; Ferry at 12.9 percent; Yakima at 12.8; Grant at 12.6; and Okanogan at 12.5 percent. Chelan County posted a rate of 11.5 percent with Skamania following at 11.3 percent, and Stevens and Pend Oreille counties at an even 10 percent each.Whitman County was the employment envy of the state with a rate of only 2.2 percent, followed by King County at 3.1 percent and Clark County at 3.8 percent.Pierce County’s 4.7 percent was bettered slightly by Thurston County at 4.6 percent. Kitsap County posted a 5.2 percent rate, with Mason County following at an even 7.0 percent unemployment, better by half of a percentage point over their rate for January 1999.”