Washington state’s jobless rate held steady at 6.1 percent in May as a surge in hiring by hotels and restaurants was partly offset by a slimmed-down government sector, new data show.
In all, 4,000 jobs were created last month, less than half of the gain in April, the state Employment Security Department reported Wednesday.
“This is the lowest monthly job gain so far this year,” state labor economist Paul Turek said in a news release.
He noted that the jobless rate stayed the same, despite a bigger work force, because the portion of job seekers who found work was roughly equal to those who did not.
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The state’s labor force, which includes unemployed job seekers, increased by 6,500 people in May to nearly 3.5 million.
So far this year, Washington has added an average of 6,560 jobs a month, which Turek described as “solid” even with May’s modest gain. The state also revised job growth in April to 8,900 from a previously reported gain of 7,700.
The leisure and hospitality sector had the largest increase in May, with 3,300 new jobs, followed by retail, up 2,100 jobs; construction, up 1,800; and financial activities, up 800.
On the downside, government shrank by 1,200 jobs during the month. Turek attributed some of the losses to the March 22 mudslide near Oso, in Snohomish County, though other cuts were caused by open positions that went unfilled, he said.
Meanwhile, the state’s professional- and business-services sector posted a steep job reduction of 1,200, mostly in administrative and support work. Manufacturers shed 500 jobs, primarily in the production of nondurable goods, such as food and paper.
Joblessness in the Seattle area, which includes Bellevue and Everett, was unchanged last month at 5.0 percent as employers added 1,300 jobs. Local hiring was strongest in construction, manufacturing, retail and financial activities.
The U.S. unemployment rate also stayed the same in May at 6.3 percent.
Turek said the jobs recovery looks better on a year-over-year basis. Employers statewide created 76,800 new jobs in May compared with a year ago, a 2.6 percent increase.
What’s more, job growth was spread across a broad sector of the economy, reversing a post-recovery trend in which gains were concentrated at the bottom or top of the pay scale, with scarce opportunities for middle-wage workers, he said.
“We’re now seeing growth in pretty well-paying industries like construction and manufacturing,” he said.
Indeed, the state’s construction sector created 12,800 new jobs in the past year, while durable-goods manufacturers added 2,200.
Washington remains on track to post its strongest year of job growth since the recession, Turek said.
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org.