Washington's unemployment rate rises to 9.5 percent

Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to an estimated 9.5 percent in December, up from a revised rate of 9 percent in November. Employment shrank by an estimated 3,800 jobs in December, compared to a revised loss of about 1,100 in November. Despite the jump in the unemployment rate, monthly job losses are continuing to decline, according to the Employment Security Department’s chief economist, Dave Wallace. Washington lost an estimated 23,700 jobs in the last six months of 2009 — compared to more than 80,000 job losses in the first six months of the year.

“Employment is a lagging economic indicator, so coming out of a recession, it is typical for jobs to be the last thing to return,” said Wallace. “But over all, job losses are clearly trending downward, and that’s a positive sign.”

Year over year, Washington had 106,200 fewer jobs last month than in December 2008, a 3.6 percent decrease. Nationally, employment declined by 3.1 percent over the past year.

Construction took the sharpest hit in December, down about 1,900 jobs. Other industries that showed jobs losses in December were government, down 1,500; financial activities, down 800; transportation, warehousing and utilities, down 700; manufacturing, down 400; information, down 400; natural resources and mining, down 300; and wholesale trade, down 200.

Industries that gained jobs in December were education and health services, up 800; professional and business services, up 700; leisure and hospitality, up 500; and retail trade, up 400.

An estimated 334,265 people (not seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in December. A total of 287,086 people received unemployment benefits from Washington state last month.