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Washington state adds jobs but unemployment remains constant

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FILE – In this May 26, 2020, file photo, a sign at the headquarters for the Washington state Employment Security Department is shown at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington state’s rush to get unemployment benefits to residents who lost jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak left it vulnerable to criminals who made off with hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) Ted S. Warren/AP

Washington state adds jobs but unemployment remains constant

September 16, 10:30 AM September 16, 10:30 AM

Jobs added in Washington reached five figures for the sixth month this year, according to August numbers released by the state’s Employment Security Department.

The unemployment rate for August, however, remained unchanged from July at 5.1%.

Employers added 16,800 non-farm jobs last month, roughly two-thirds of the growth in June and July, which saw 25,600 and 24,300 new jobs, respectively.

“August’s job gain numbers were relatively solid in the face of renewed health concerns,” Paul Turek, an economist with the WSD, said in a press release. “But the uncertainty around the delta variant is likely to result in an uneven labor market recovery.”

Washington’s unemployment rate of 5.1% matches the national unemployment rate, putting it tied for No. 28 with Florida among the 50 states.

Of the new jobs added in August, 13,000 were in the private sector while 3,800 were in government employment.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits decreased from 199,200 in July to 198,800 in August.

The Employment Security Department in early July reinstated a requirement that people receiving unemployment must provide three approved examples of job search efforts each week. Job seekers might also be more active now that additional weekly money in the form of federal pandemic unemployment benefits has expired.

At least 25 states, primarily run by Republican governors, had decided to opt out of the federal program ahead of the Sept. 6 deadline, citing concerns from business owners that the extra money was a disincentive for people to find work.

Washington did not opt out early, but Gov. Jay Inslee over the summer said state money would not be used to replace the additional checks. When the program initially faced expiration in December before being renewed by Congress, Inslee authorized a one-time payment of $550 for recipients.

The sector with the largest growth last month was leisure and hospitality, which added 8,500 jobs. That area was hit hard across the country in 2020 and well into 2021 due to various travel bans and lockdowns.

Professional and business service added 3,400 jobs in August, while manufacturing added 2,000. Construction, however reported a loss of 1,600 jobs.

In looking at year-over-year numbers, Washington added 30,100 jobs in August 2020 and the unemployment rate dipped below double figures for the first time in four months to 9.1%. That was more than double, however, compared to August 2019 when the unemployment rate was 4.1%.

The state’s unemployment rate had spiked to 16.3% in April 2020, just as the pandemic hit, as Washington lost 388,000 jobs that month.

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