Unemployment in Washington dropped slightly in September for the first time in five months, even as the nation seemed to plunge into recession.

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Unemployment in Washington dropped slightly in September for the first time in five months, even as the nation seemed to plunge into recession.

The state’s jobless rate last month fell to 5.8 percent from 6 percent in August, a four-year high, the Employment Security Department said Tuesday.

As always, the latest numbers are subject to revision as more data come in, the agency said.

The preliminary figure doesn’t mean the state is bucking the slowdown; Washington’s jobless rate for September is nearly one-third higher than it was 12 months ago.

However, strong aerospace and software sectors, combined with the state’s relative isolation from the housing meltdown that’s wrought havoc elsewhere, have helped to cushion the fall.

“The economy is still relatively strong, although it’s not immune to what is going on in the nation,” said Mary Ayala, chief economist for the state Employment Security Department. “Growth appears to be decelerating.”

The national unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in September, unchanged from August. In September 2007, the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.

In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent in September from 4.7 percent in August. Those figures are adjusted for seasonal variations in the labor force.

The Employment Security Department also releases unemployment figures by county that aren’t seasonally adjusted. Those showed an increase in the jobless rates in King County (from 4.3 to 4.6 percent) and Snohomish County (from 5.0 to 5.2 percent).

About 187,000 people were jobless and looking for work in the state, the state said.

The state added 28,100 nonfarm jobs since September 2007, up 1 percent, compared with a 0.7 percent drop nationwide. The report said that although Washington’s economy has slowed down, it remains “substantially better” than during the last recession in 2001.

Nonetheless, in September some 18,200 nonfarm jobs were lost. About 11,600 were in government, with local governments shedding the most.

The sudden drop is believed due to the dismissal of a large number of temporary workers hired in August to do polling and voting registration.

Construction, which has been steadily losing jobs since January, shed about 2,200 jobs, mainly in commercial construction. Employment in residential construction was unchanged, the agency said.

Financial services, another sector at the core of the current turmoil, saw 700 jobs disappear in September.

Goods producers were down 3,600 jobs, professional and business services lost 1,500, and manufacturing shed 1,400 jobs.

There were some bright spots. Publishing industries employed 600 more people than last month. Education and health-care services gained 800 jobs. Aerospace industries added 200 jobs, and so did food manufacturing.

The September results didn’t reflect the ongoing Machinists strike at Boeing and a two-week teachers strike in the Bellevue School District, said Greg Weeks, director of labor-market and economic analysis at the agency. The department doesn’t count strikers as unemployed.

The agency surveys some 7,000 employers to obtain payroll numbers, while the unemployment rate is based on a smaller household survey.

Ángel González: 206-515-5644 or agonzalez@seattletimes.com