Washington gained 3,200 jobs in November, coming within just a few thousand of the state's job count before the recession. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate edged up to 5.7 percent from...

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Washington gained 3,200 jobs in November, coming within just a few thousand of the state’s job count before the recession. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate edged up to 5.7 percent from 5.6 percent in October, a sign that discouraged workers have resumed their job search.

Although job growth remains relatively weak in the Seattle area it has recovered about a third of the jobs it lost the statewide economy is just 4,400 jobs short of recouping the 81,400 lost between January 2001 and June 2003.

If hiring continues, Washington’s employment could be at pre-recession levels by the end of December, according to an analysis by Roberta Pauer, a regional economist for the state Employment Security Department.

The aerospace industry, which continued to lose jobs early in the year, added 800 jobs last month on top of the 1,000 created in September and October. Boeing accounted for some of last month’s growth. The company has said it would hire 3,000 people locally, mostly in engineering for the new 7E7 and for some defense work.

Construction continued its robust growth, adding 1,700 jobs in November. Wholesale and retail trades, however, were weaker than expected, adding a combined 500 jobs for the month. Aside from Boeing, manufacturing remained flat in November.

The outlook may spur some unhappy employees to start looking for other jobs, a trend job experts have been predicting since the recovery began.

One in five workers planned to switch jobs by the end of the year, according to a June poll conducted by CareerBuilder.com. The same poll found that 48 percent of workers were dissatisfied with their jobs, a jump from 43 percent in December 2003.

Seattle job seeker Anne Stern was among them. She quit her full-time position at a Bellevue real-estate agency last week in hopes of finding more creative work that fits her personality and interests.

Like others, the recession thrust Stern into ill-fitting jobs out of economic necessity. Her husband had lost his technology job, forcing Stern to go wherever the opportunities were.

She worked in technology sales for a while, then as an administrative assistant, then got her real-estate license. The gigs helped her pay the family bills but confirmed her distaste for conventional industries and for routine office work.

“It’s just really difficult for me to sit at a desk in a cubicle all day long,” said Stern, 26. “It’s just soul-sucking.

“I’m not a money-motivated person, I’m a passion-oriented person,” she said. “The people that I’m around, the type of work that I’m engaged in, is more important to me than the dollar signs behind it.”

There are signs tech workers are considering greener pastures, too. The devastating downturn hit technology the hardest in 2002, forcing programmers, systems analysts and the like to take jobs below their skills and salary expectations.

“Some really did have to settle,” said Marybeth Borgwardt, who recruits IT workers for Allyis, a Bothell staffing firm.

Borgwardt said some of them are looking into changing jobs, and the competition for the cream is getting tough again.

“I’m losing more and more candidates to other positions,” she said. “I have an offer for somebody, and they take another offer. That wasn’t happening two years ago.”

Even so, the Seattle metro area has recovered about 31,500 of the 98,300 jobs it lost during the recession, which followed a period of abnormally strong hiring.

The area gained 1,000 jobs in November. Its unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.2 percent from 5.1 percent a month earlier. The U.S. jobless rate was 5.4 percent last month.

State forecasters predict employers will add an average 5,000 jobs a month in early 2005. The unemployment rate may hold steady or even rise, though, as discouraged workers who had stopped being counted in jobless figures begin seeking work again.

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

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