State unemployment rate holds steady, but experience varies widely across Washington

The Washington State Employment Security Department has announced that the unemployment rate held steady last month at 5.8 percent.

Washington added 10,600 new nonfarm jobs on a preliminary, seasonally adjusted basis from January 2016 to February 2016, according to the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD).

“While Washington’s unemployment rate continues to hover at 5.8 percent, the state’s labor market continues to move in the right direction,” said Paul Turek, Washington’s state labor economist. “Jobs were added by employers while the number of unemployed in Washington mostly held steady at 209,000. The labor force also grew significantly to more than 3.6 million.”

Blanca Torres writes in the Seattle Times that the jobs picture remains uneven.

In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett region, the rate inched down slightly to 5 percent in February from 5.1 percent in January. In February 2015, it was 4.4 percent.

Nationwide, the February unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, identical to January, and down from 5.5 percent in the same month last year.

As we noted earlier, many counties in the state continue to experience high unemployment. A report from the Wenatchee World on the effects of Alcoa layoffs reinforces the point. 

Hundreds of layoffs at Alcoa Wenatchee Works have begun to take their toll on the region’s unemployment rate, which in January marked the first year-over-year rise in 43 months for Chelan and Douglas counties.

The two-county area registered an 8.4 percent jobless rate in January, a rise of 0.5 percentage points over the same month in 2015, according to numbers released Thursday by the state Employment Security Department.

The full brunt of the ‘Alcoa effect’ isn’t showing yet in the monthly numbers,” said state Regional Labor Economist Don Meseck.

Retaining and securing manufacturing jobs will be critical to expanding opportunity and shared prosperity throughout the state. The Opportunity Washington roadmap identifies strategies for achieving the goal.