Washington's jobless rate jumped to 5. 8 percent last month as a swell of new job seekers expanded the labor force. Employers added 2,800 jobs...

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Washington’s jobless rate jumped to 5.8 percent last month as a swell of new job seekers expanded the labor force.

Employers added 2,800 jobs last month, not enough to accommodate the 27,000 new people looking for work, the largest monthly surge in five years.

Last month’s job growth fell short of the 7,000 monthly average for the past year. Economists expected a dip for the month, however, to balance July’s unusually robust growth of 12,200 jobs.

“We don’t expect to see job gains in excess of 10,000 every month,” said Rick Kaglic, the state’s chief economist.

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The unemployment rate, up from 5.6 percent in July and nearly a percentage point above the national rate of 4.9 percent, is the highest since December.

“It’s not due to a loss of jobs in the economy — that would be a cause for concern,” said Roberta Pauer, a regional economist with the state Employment Security Department. “It’s a sign of how good our job growth has been.”

Unemployment rates typically rise during an economic recovery, Pauer said, as people who had given up looking for a job resume their search and are once again counted by the Labor Department.

Most of the new jobs — 2,300 — were added in the Seattle metro area, where the unemployment rate held steady at 4.8 percent, Pauer said.

Construction led the growth in the Seattle area with 700 new jobs, a figure adjusted for seasonal fluctuations. Health and education added 600 jobs, as did leisure and hospitality. Manufacturing also grew by 600 jobs, most of them in aerospace.

The effects of the Boeing Machinists strike and Hurricane Katrina aren’t reflected in last month’s figures since both events took place after the U.S. Department of Labor conducted its monthly surveys, Pauer said.

The state’s unemployment rate is determined through a telephone survey of 1,350 households. Job growth, considered a more reliable measure of the employment market, is calculated from a survey sent to 9,000 Washington businesses.

Some local Boeing suppliers that diversified to withstand the cyclical nature of the aerospace industry say the 13-day-old strike hasn’t yet affected their businesses.

“We’re still hiring feverishly,” said Kevin Dooley, executive vice president for Fatigue Technologies, a tooling company in Tukwila. “Our problem before the Machinists went on strike was that we were having trouble getting people. The strike may help us in a sense.”

ChangMook Sohn, head of the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, doubts that either the hurricane or the strike will have much effect on the state’s job growth.

Oil and gas prices were rising before Katrina hit, and they’ve since begun to drop, he said.

And while a prolonged strike at Boeing could cost some jobs among local suppliers, there are too few of them to slow Washington’s recovery.

“The state economy is doing very well,” he said. “The U.S. has been creating close to 180,000 jobs a month, but in terms of growth rate is it about 1.6 percent. Our economy has been growing at 3.1 percent.”

The state has added 83,900 jobs in the past year.

Economists expect more modest growth in 2006, 2.4 percent, slowing to 2 percent in 2007.

Forecasters also predict that employment growth in software, which had flattened by mid-2001, will pick up to about 3 percent a year through 2007.

Construction growth will slow to an average of 1.7 percent a year, according to a report the state Forecast Council report released in June, the result of higher interest rates and a projected slowdown in residential building.

Shirleen Holt: 206-464-8316 or sholt@seattletimes.com