Once again, Washington's unemployment rate stayed above the nation's. The back story is more complicated.
The most intriguing part of the June jobs report for Washington is that the state lost 500 jobs compared with May. Nationally, June saw a strong increase of 287,000 jobs. The state’s unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent for the seventh straight month, 0.9 points above the national rate (Oregon was 4.8 percent).
To be sure, the state gained a preliminary 96,900 jobs in June compared with the same month last year. That’s about 2.6 percent of the civilian labor force. Compared with states of similar population, Arizona and Massachusetts, the year-over-year performance is better. Arizona added 75,700 from May to May (it had not yet reported June figures). Massachusetts employment increased by 67,300 over the year in June.
But the fact remains that Washington’s labor market isn’t performing as well as would be expected given the red-hot metro Seattle economy. In the first quarter of 2016, Washington’s U-6 unemployment rate was 10.9 percent. This is the measurement that includes discouraged workers and part-timers seeking full-time work. The U.S. rate was 10.1 percent. Also, a continuing headwind will likely be the higher unemployment in metro areas outside Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue. Even Seattle isn’t performing as well as some of its peer metros on the employment front.
One other piece of context: Washington has generally had a higher unemployment than the nation, going back decades. Even in April 2000, amid the greatest modern national expansion, U.S. unemployment was 3.8 percent but Washington 5 percent. So some of it may have to do with our mix of sectors. But that’s not a complete answer considering Seattle has higher unemployment than tech-heavy peers.
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Opponents of Seattle’s step up to a $15 minimum wage (still not there, yet) may feel justified in the loss of 2,800 leisure and hospitality jobs from May to June — these tend to be lower-paying positions. The problem is that these are statewide numbers, so we simply don’t know the effects of Seattle and Seatac yet. Also, over the year these jobs have increased by 6,800.
You can read the state report here.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Big healthcare mergers
Will raise prices and cut care
Antitrust regs, stat