Employment numbers worsen in state, Pierce County
In Pierce County, the November unemployment rate rose to 6.6 percent, up from 6.2 percent in October and well ahead of the 4.6 percent figure recorded in November 2007.
Unemployment in Washington rose slightly in November to 6.4 percent, up from 6.3 percent in October, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.
Mary Ayala, employment security chief economist, told reporters Tuesday that Washington is doing relatively better than other states, and noted the 8 percent unemployment rate in Oregon.
“Washington may be somewhat stronger than other states or the nation as a whole,” she said. “Relative to other states, I think Washington is doing better. The reason for that is Washington is a more services-based economy.”
In Pierce County, the number of unemployed people rose to 27,190, up from the revised figure of 25,100 in October, the department reported. (Pierce County’s unemployment rate is not adjusted for seasonal changes in hiring such as holiday retail help. Washington’s jobless rate is adjusted.)
Still, 382,170 people were employed in the county, down from 403,340 in October but ahead of the 381,220 people employed in November 2007. The unemployment rate is greater because of an increase in the overall labor force.
“Last time it looked a lot worse than it actually was, and this month it looks a lot better than it actually is,” said Paul Turek, Pierce County regional economist for the department.
“Essentially, what (the report) indicates is that the numbers are still not good,” he said. “We’re down 100 jobs for the month. That’s looking purely at the monthly change figures. Last year we added 900 jobs in the same period. We’re moving in the wrong direction.”
Another factor, he said, was the downward revision of October estimates. “They were revised downward by another 500 jobs,” Turek said. “In reality, the total loss is 600 jobs.”
He said the county has lost 4,200 jobs over the past year.
“We no longer are dodging the recession bullet,” he said Tuesday.
Statewide – with 11,700 jobs lost in November – the greatest decline came in the residential specialty-trade construction sector, which lost 3,300 jobs; clothing and accessory stores were down 1,800 jobs; administrative and support services down 1,600 jobs; and general merchandise stores down 1,200.
Health services and social assistance gained 700 new jobs; scientific and technical services grew by 200; and electronic markets, agents and brokers, and transportation equipment manufacturing each gained 200 new jobs.
In Pierce County, construction jobs were down 2.7 percent from November 2007 and 0.6 percent from last October.
Hospital employment in the county was up 0.3 percent from last year and ahead by 0.1 percent from October.
The total number of nonagricultural jobs in Washington in November was down 22,400 compared with the same month a year ago, a 0.8 percent decrease. In the state, an estimated 222,551 people were unemployed and seeking work in November.
Nationally, where the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent, jobs are down 1.4 percent over the past year.
Looking to December, Ayala said, “My best guess is (the unemployment rate is) going to come up a little bit. With retail sales declining again, that would imply more drag on the economy.”
“We’re marching in step with what we’re seeing with overall economic forces,” Turek said. “If I had to predict, I’d say that if there’s improvement in late 2009, we won’t see improvement in the labor market until spring 2010.”
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535