The region’s unemployment rate dipped slightly in March to 4.9 percent as new jobs were snapped up by a growing workforce.
The state unemployment rate didn’t budge in March, holding steady at 5.8 percent as Washington continues adding new jobs while more people enter the workforce.
For the Seattle region, the jobless rate dropped slightly to 4.9 percent in March from 5 percent in February, according to the Employment Security Department.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate inched up to 5 percent in March from 4.9 percent in February.
“The state added nearly 100,000 new jobs since last year, but at the same time, 92,500 more people entered the labor market to compete for those jobs — and that’s been keeping the unemployment rate from declining,” said Paul Turek, the state labor economist. The unemployment rate would go down if the state were creating jobs without adding workers.
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Overall, the state generated 9,000 new jobs in March, offset by about 13,000 people who joined the workforce.
Statewide, the professional and business-services sector experienced the most growth with 2,200 new jobs in March. Meanwhile, education and health services lost 1,600 jobs.
The influx of new workers includes newcomers from out of state and people returning to the job market. Some economists attribute that trend to strong growth encouraging the unemployed to start looking again or to relocate.
“When (Washington’s) economy grows faster than the U.S. economy, that tends to draw people in,” said Dick Conway, a local economist and publisher of the quarterly Puget Sound Economic Forecaster.
Growth in workforce often lags behind job growth. Last summer, new jobs were increasing, but the supply of new workers had yet to catch up, so the unemployment rate dipped to 4.4 percent.
That seems to have changed starting earlier this year, Turek said, when workforce numbers began to swell.
Turek emphasized that year-over-year job growth in March was “robust” and strong across most sectors.
During the past year, professional and business services added 17,100 jobs, retail raked in 14,900 new jobs, leisure and hospitality grew by 14,300 jobs and construction brought in 10,900 jobs.
“The labor market is doing pretty well,” Turek said.
A regional unemployment rate hovering near 5 percent is healthy, Conway said. But Boeing’s recent revelation of plans to cut up to 8,000 jobs could make a dent in the region’s labor market.
Another concern is the construction industry, which has been adding jobs for some time.
“There are signs that perhaps the building boom is peaking,” Conway said. Construction “is just not adding substantially to employment like it did coming out of the Great Recession.”