Washington State Employment Security Department Report: October

Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell by six-tenths of a percentage point to 7.0 percent in October, Employment Security Commissioner Sylvia P. Mundy announced Tuesday. The nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined by one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.0 percent. Washington’s non-adjusted unemployment rate fell by five-tenths of a percentage point to 6.6 percent.

“The new state unemployment data reflects the good news at the national level,” said Mundy. “Although we are still a long way from a full-scale labor market recovery, there has been a significant improvement over the month. The labor force increased to its highest level, on a seasonally adjusted basis, since January 2003. Both measures of employment, from the household and the establishment surveys, show job gains over the month.”

Non-agricultural employment increased by 14,000 jobs over the month. Most of this increase was accounted for by seasonal gains in education, up 14,700 jobs at the state level and 14,600 jobs at the local level. Many other industries had seasonal layoffs, including construction (-1,700); manufacturing (-2,900); and leisure and hospitality (-10,600). Financial services posted a small drop in employment, down 500 jobs over the month, signaling some moderation in the refinancing and home buying boom.
Trade and information were little changed over the month, while the transportation and warehousing industry was up slightly, 700 jobs.

Temporary help firms were also up over the month, adding 900 jobs, giving an early signal that firms may not be able to meet current demand without increasing their workforce.

Over the year, non-agricultural employment is up 8,000 jobs. This is the first over-the-year increase after three months of declines and is the largest over the year increase since January 2003. The over-the-year loss of manufacturing jobs has moderated to 14,900 jobs. Aerospace manu-facturing, in particular, is down over the year by 9,500 compared to 11,600 in January. In January 2003, though, aerospace accounted for 58 percent of over the year job loss in manufacturing, while in October aerospace accounted for 64 percent of manufacturing job loss.

Retail trade is up over the year, as is construction, financial activities, professional and business services, health and educational services, leisure and hospitality, and government. The information sector is still down due to job losses in telecommunications. The transportation and warehousing industry is down due mainly to air transportation.

The Tacoma metropolitan area (Pierce County) unemployment rate remains at a level 0.6 point above the statewide rate of 6.6 percent. Tacoma’s rate of 7.2 percent is also 1.6 points above the comparable rate for the United States. The end of the annual Western Washington Fair in Puyallup and of the construction season normally causes a seasonal dip in the local labor economy.

Hiring for Christmas retail activity should boost employment at the end of the year, but delayed effects of the deployment of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Armored Division (the “Stryker” Brigade) to Iraq will sharply cool the local economy. Activation of the National Guard’s 81st Armored Brigade will not completely offset the local economic loss associated with deployment of almost 3,000 troops from Fort Lewis. When the 81st is also deployed, expected sometime early next year, the full loss to the Tacoma economy should be expected.

Offsetting the economic loss will be the presence in the area of some of the dependents of deployed soldiers, and improvements in the national and international economies.