Washington State unemployment reaches 7.1%

Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 7.1 percent in December 2008, up from November’s rate of 6.4 percent, according to the state Employment Security Department.

The state lost an estimated 22,200 non-agricultural jobs, seasonally adjusted. Industries with the most job growth included information, with 300 new jobs, aerospace, which added 400, and education and health services, up 300. The largest declines were in manufacturing, which cut 3,500 jobs, professional and business services, down 7,900, administrative and support services, down 5,600, construction, down 4,200, and transportation, trade and utilities, which lost 3,300 jobs.

Year over year, Washington had 54,600 fewer jobs last month than in December 2007, a 1.8 percent decrease. Nationally, employment declined by 1.9 percent over the past year.

An estimated 251,728 people (not seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in December, nearly 90,000 more than a year ago.

“In barely a year, we’ve gone from historically low unemployment to record numbers of people applying for unemployment benefits,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee, referring to the record-setting 90,331 new unemployment applications that were filed in December.

To respond to the rapid increase in unemployment-insurance applications, the department has increased the capacity of its phone system and doubled the number of staff answering phones at its call centers, with another 35 currently going through the extensive training process.

Laid-off workers can apply for unemployment benefits online at http://www.esd.wa.gov . As an alternative, they can call (800) 318-6022 but should be prepared to wait on hold for a half hour or longer.

Lee stressed that claimants need to provide complete and accurate information when filing for unemployment in order to prevent lengthy delays and multiple phone calls.

Job seekers can get help looking for work at Employment Security’s affiliated WorkSource offices across the state, where a variety of employment services are offered, including free help with interviewing skills or resumes and with job referrals. In addition, more than 15,000 current job openings are posted on http://www.go2worksource.com .

For more information, visit http://www.go2worksource.com .