Unemployment in the state slipped to 5. 6 percent last month from 5. 8 percent in August as a broad array of industries — everything...

Share story

Unemployment in the state slipped to 5.6 percent last month from 5.8 percent in August as a broad array of industries — everything from construction to information services — continued to hire.

Excluding the effects of the Boeing Machinists strike, employers statewide added about 5,500 jobs last month — just short of the 5,750 monthly average for the past year, said Rick Kaglic, chief economist at the state Employment Security Department.

“Business activity remains strong, and firms still have the help-wanted signs out,” Kaglic said.

The upbeat outlook was evident yesterday at a Seattle job fair, where 42 employers interviewed job seekers. “We have 10 positions in the Puget Sound area to fill immediately, but I’ll be happy if I can find just three qualified, responsible candidates,” said Sheila Miller, a recruiter for rent-to-own retailer Aaron’s who flew from Las Vegas to attend the job fair.

The labor market began to come alive last year, when the Puget Sound area’s economy emerged from the nationwide recession and the prolonged tech downturn that left thousands of well-paid professionals out of work.

Although a far cry from the frenzied pace of a decade ago, software and telecom firms are busy hiring again.

Adjusted for seasonal variations, the sector added 500 new jobs in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area last month, helping to accelerate a 4.1 percent growth in payrolls in the information sector since the start of the year.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality firms led job growth, adding a net 2,400 jobs in September. Other big contributors were professional and business services, adding 2,200 jobs; and construction, adding 1,400 jobs.

The Seattle metropolitan area continues to be the motor of the state’s recovery, with seasonally adjusted unemployment edging down to 4.7 percent in September compared with 4.8 percent in August.

But because of Boeing’s strong presence in the area, companies actually shed a net 13,300 jobs last month. The roughly 16,000 striking aerospace workers were not counted as unemployed because they were not on the payroll Sept. 12, as required by federal calculating standards.

In the rest of the state, total non-farm payroll employment increased by 2,600 jobs.

“Next month we’ll see an offsetting surge in jobs in the Seattle area when those striking workers are again counted in the ranks of the employed,” Kaglic said.

The state’s unemployment rate is determined through a telephone survey of 1,350 households. Job growth, usually considered a more reliable barometer of the employment market, is calculated from a survey of 9,000 Washington businesses.

The difference in methodologies explains why the Boeing strike weighed heavily on employment figures but did not affect the unemployment rate.

Washington continues to outpace the rest of the nation in job growth, with payroll employment increasing by 70,100, or 2.6 percent, over the past year compared with 1.6 percent increase nationwide. The number of unemployed workers has fallen by roughly 3,700 since September 2004, the state reported.

Josh Goodman: 206-464-3347 or jgoodman@seattletimes.com