The employment picture in Washington darkened further in May, as the state posted widespread job losses and a sharply higher unemployment...

Share story

The employment picture in Washington darkened further in May, as the state posted widespread job losses and a sharply higher unemployment rate.

The state’s jobless rate, adjusted for seasonal variations, jumped six-tenths of a percentage point in May to 5.3 percent, the highest level since October 2005, according to the state Employment Security Department. In the Seattle metro area, unemployment leapt seven-tenths of a percentage point last month, to 4.1 percent.

Both increases mirrored the half-percentage point jump in the U.S. unemployment rate last month. The national rate now stands at 5.5 percent.

About 176,060 Washingtonians are now seeking work, according to the department, up from 143,150 in May 2007.

Nonfarm payrolls fell by 2,600 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis last month, the third monthly decline in a row. Since nonfarm employment peaked in February, the state has lost 5,000 payroll jobs.

The job losses were spread across most of the state’s major economic sectors. Only two sectors showed gains last month: 1,200 jobs in professional and business services — a catchall category that includes everything from accountants to temporary-help agencies — and 500 jobs in information industries.

Retailers shed 1,100 jobs in May, perhaps an indication that the federal tax-rebate checks most people have received by now aren’t doing much to stimulate spending. Education and health services lost 900 jobs last month, mostly on the education side; government cut 700 jobs.

The manufacturing sector was unchanged for the month, as a 600-job gain in aerospace offset losses in food processing, wood products and other manufacturing industries.

Residential construction fell by 900 jobs in May, further fallout from the housing slump; heavy and civil engineering, representing work on such projects as roads and bridges, lost an additional 300. But nonresidential building continued to show strength, with a 700-job gain.

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