December 21, 2007
State jobless rate stays low
Seattle Times business reporter
THE SEATTLE TIMES
For most of this year, growth in year-over-year nonfarm payrolls has wavered between 2.5 percent and 3 percent – more than twice the national growth rate. Since February, the state's unemployment rate has never been lower than 4.4 percent or higher than 4.9 percent.
November's jobs report, released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department, continued that trend. Nonfarm payrolls grew by 5,200 jobs last month, for a 12-month growth rate of 2.7 percent, and the unemployment rate ticked down a tenth of a percentage point to 4.7 percent, matching the U.S. rate.
Evelina Tainer, the state's chief labor economist, said that unless December's job report is a disaster, 2007 likely will go down as having the lowest average jobless rate since the current series of statistics started in 1976.
In both 1998 and 1999, the average unemployment rate was 4.8 percent; through November, 2007's average rate is tracking at 4.7 percent.
In metro Seattle, the jobless rate fell to 3.7 percent from 4 percent in October, even though the region's firms added just a net 500 jobs to their payrolls. (The payroll numbers come from a survey of employers, while the unemployment rate is derived from a separate household survey. The two measures often appear out of sync in the short term.)
"A pretty decent report," Tainer said. "We had strength in a lot of different sectors."
One of the biggest surprises was the retail sector, which has been widely reported to be enduring a lackluster holiday-shopping season. But even after adjusting for seasonal variations, Washington's retail sector added 600 jobs last month – 400 of them at clothing stores.
Aerospace, which also added 600 jobs in November (essentially all in metro Seattle), has been one of the strongest industry sectors all year. Over the past 12 months, aerospace employers have added 5,700 jobs, for a 7.5 percent growth rate.
Only 100 construction jobs were created in November, still more than might be expected given the weakened state of the housing market. The sector's 12-month growth rate has been trending lower in recent months but still stands at a solid 7.5 percent.
Financial-services jobs also have held up surprisingly well. The real-estate and lending subsectors together added 700 jobs statewide in November, more than offsetting the 300 jobs cut in the insurance industry.
Warehousing and storage added 500 jobs last month, and software publishers added 400. Private education services and food processing, however, each lost 300 jobs.
Job growth in the Seattle area was led by professional and business services, which added 1,000 jobs last month. That was offset, however, by a big drop in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector — due mainly to job cuts at an unidentified local symphony and the late opening of one of the area's ski resorts, regional economist Cristina Gonzalez said.Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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