Important sectors of the economy showed improvement in January’s figures, leading one regional economist to call the trend “optimistic.”
Fully 268,700 workers were employed in January, the department reported. This is up from 262,300 people employed the year before.
Thurston County likewise showed a decline in the unemployment rate, with January’s 8.4 percent down from 8.5 percent a year before. With 97,500 workers employed last month, the number of persons employed rose by 900 workers from the 96,400 noted in January 2012.
“I think what you’re seeing is a continuing trend of a gradually improving labor market,” said state regional economist Paul Turek.
“The numbers this month are pretty optimistic.”
Still, the numbers did show a decline of workers employed from December of last year to January.
“We lost 3,100 jobs in Pierce County in a month,” Turek said. “How could you say things are improving?”
Every year, he said, economists expect to see a decline in employment from December to January as workers leave following the holiday season.
“When we look at the last six or seven years, what we average is a decline of 6,300 jobs in January. We’re seeing about half of that occurring,” he said. “If you look at it from that angle, it’s actually a good month that we’ve had.”
The county-based numbers are not seasonally adjusted for seasonal employment, but if they were, Turek said, “it would translate into a gain of 1,400 jobs.”
Particularly gratifying Tuesday were the numbers from particular sectors.
From January 2012 to January 2013 in Pierce County:
• Construction employment was up 4 percent;
• Specialty trade contractors were up 5.2 percent;
• Transportation and warehousing were up 9.2 percent;
• Leisure and hospitality was up 7.3 percent;
• Food service and drinking places marked an increase of 9.8 percent.
The upward-bound figures for construction employment, Turek said, likely indicate an increase in commercial building. The increase in food-and-beverage employment could indicate that “we’re seeing more earning power in the area, and that translates to more spending.”
In Thurston County for the same period:
• Total private employment was up 1.6 percent;
• Trade, transportation and utilities employment was up 3.7 percent;
• Professional and business services were up 7.5 percent;
• State government employment fell 0.4 percent;
• Local government employment rose 1.8 percent.
“We tend to be a little more cautions of our celebration of this,” Turek said, of the positive data. “Last year we also had a significant improvement, and that was revised downward. These are estimates based on partial observation. We’re going to wait and see over successive months whether that is just a blip.”
Statewide numbers released before the county numbers on Tuesday showed that state employers added 24,100 jobs, while the unemployment rate, 7.5 percent, was unchanged. The statewide numbers have been adjusted for seasonal changes.
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535