Washington state unemployment fell to a four-year low in December, dropping to 7.6 percent last month from a revised rate of 7.7 percent in November, according to state Employment Security Department data released Wednesday.
But the drop in unemployment was not because of job growth, but largely because job seekers have stopped looking for work, something the state has experienced the last several months, Employment Security chief labor economist Joe Elling said Wednesday.
The unemployment rate represents the percentage of the labor force thats unemployed and actively looking for work, according to a news release. People who quit looking for work are not counted as part of the labor force when calculating the unemployment rate, the news release states.
Elling said the state's total labor force fell by .2 percent in the November-to-December period and was down .8 percent from December a year ago.
The state also shed jobs in the November-to-December period, losing 7,900 -- 3,200 in the private sector and 4,700 in government. That number will be revised later -- either up or down -- because fewer than normal businesses around the state participated in a survey to help compile the jobless data, Elling said.
Participation likely was down because of the holidays, he said.
Although the state shed jobs overall, construction was the bright spot, creating 3,100 jobs in the November-to-December period. That gain was due to the demand for multifamily housing, mostly in King and Snohomish counties, Elling said.
Pierce County's December jobless data, which is not seasonally adjusted, will be released Jan. 23. In November, Pierce County's jobless rate was 7.9 percent, compared to 8.8 percent in November 2011.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403