Washington continued to defy the multiple drags on the national economy in February, as state payrolls added 3,500 jobs and the unemployment...

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Washington continued to defy the multiple drags on the national economy in February, as state payrolls added 3,500 jobs and the unemployment rate held steady at 4.5 percent.

In the Seattle metro area, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate ticked down a tenth of a percentage point, to 3.6 percent.

Statewide, nonfarm payroll jobs — often considered a more reliable indicator than the unemployment rate — grew by 1.7 percent over the past 12 months, nearly three times the U.S. growth rate.

Strength in the retail sector was somewhat unexpected, given widespread reports of weak consumer spending. Washington retailers added 1,000 jobs last month, though state economists warned that may not last.

Other sectors that showed significant gains were bars and restaurants (up 800 jobs), health services and social assistance (up 400 jobs) and construction (up 400 jobs, as gains in nonresidential construction offset losses on the residential side).

Miscellaneous services, such as repair and maintenance and membership organizations, lost 300 jobs, as did wholesalers of nondurable goods.

Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or ddesilver@seattletimes.com