After eight months of not budging, the state unemployment rate finally dipped ever so slightly in August, while the Greater Seattle area’s jobless rate dropped to 4.1 percent. But unemployment is “not likely to move much lower,” says the state labor economist.
After eight months of not budging, the state unemployment rate finally dipped ever so slightly in August, while the Greater Seattle area’s jobless rate dropped to its lowest level in eight years.
The statewide jobless rate of 5.7 percent in August was down from 5.8 percent in July, though up from 5.6 percent in August 2015, according to preliminary, seasonally adjusted figures released Wednesday by the state Employment Security Department.
That statewide figure remains stubbornly almost a point above the national unemployment rate, which was 4.9 percent in August, about where it’s hovered since last fall.
The Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 4.1 percent in August, down from 4.4 percent in July and from 4.5 percent in August 2015. That’s the lowest the Seattle-area unemployment rate has been since July 2008.
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But don’t expect the unemployment rates to drop significantly lower by the end of the year.
August marked the third consecutive month that the state showed relatively low employment gains.
And while the number of jobs added statewide has increased year-over-year since the recovery from the recession began, that pattern is not likely to continue this year.
“We’re still growing” the number of jobs, said Paul Turek, state labor economist. “But, at least right now, we’re not growing at an increasing rate.”
Partly, that’s because the economy both nationally and at the state level has reached what Turek termed “full potential.”
“Right now, it’s gotten sticky, at both the national and state level,” Turek said of the jobless figures. “It’s not likely to move much lower.”
By the end of the year, the national unemployment rate may get down to 4.6 percent, and the statewide figure to 5.5 percent, but it’s not likely to move much lower than that, he said.
Similarly, the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area’s jobless figure may dip a bit lower as well, said Turek, but “I think it’s a longshot to expect that to go down to 3.1 percent as it had previously” before the recession.
That’s partly because the low unemployment rate pre-recession was fueled in part by the housing bubble.
Overall, the state gained 2,600 jobs from July to August, with the education and health services, wholesale trade and government sectors gaining the most.
Manufacturing and the leisure and hospitality sector lost the most jobs in the past month. July’s preliminary estimated gain of 2,600 jobs was revised downward to 1,900 jobs. Over the past year, the state added 95,300 jobs total.
The state’s civilian labor force — meaning those ages 16 and older who are working or actively looking for work — went up slightly in August, to about 3.63 million people. That was an increase of 7,400 people into the labor force.
Some 9,600 people in Washington joined the ranks of the employed in August, while the number of unemployed dropped by 2,200.
Over the year, the state’s labor force grew by 89,000, while the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area’s labor force grew by 29,300.