A significant drop in the unemployment rate in December, combined with an increase in estimated total jobs, provide reasons for optimism about the state’s labor market.
The Employment Security Department’s estimated unemployment rate for December was 6.6%, down from 6.8% in November. The last time the state’s unemployment rate was this low was in November 2008, when it was 6.5%.
The state gained an estimated 4,800 jobs in December.
Paul Turek, an Employment Security labor economist, said the drop in December’s unemployment was caused primarily by a shrinking labor force as discouraged job seekers stopped looking for work.
Nevertheless, Washington’s labor market appeared to be stronger in December than the previous two months, he said.
“We’re not heading southward, we’re heading northward,” said Turek. “It was a baby step in the right direction.”
Over the past year, an estimated 41,800 jobs have been added in Washington. Since the low point of the recession, when 205,000 jobs were lost, 83% have been added.
In December, an estimated 227,900 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 125,200 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.
In November, Grays Harbor held the highest unemployment statewide with 11.3%.
County by county unemployment numbers are set to be released on Tuesday.