Great Recession hangover: Unemployment is up as WA continues to struggle

Recently the Employment Security Department released its latest unemployment numbers for Washington: 8.6% unemployment in August – up from 8.5% in July and 8.3% in June. We would expect to see a concurrent fall in jobs numbers. Fewer jobs mean higher unemployment, right? While generally true, the numbers don’t always match up month-to-month.

Click for interactive chart

A couple of examples: The Bureau of Labor statistics reported an increase in U.S. unemployment between June and July. Yet during the same period, the nation’s industries added more than 140,000 jobs. Here in Washington, while the state’s (non-farm) jobs numbers held pretty steady between July and August, the unemployment rate inched up to 8.6%.

The reason? As the Wall Street Journal has explained, these discrepancies are largely the result of the differing means of data collection for the two numbers. Jobs numbers are based on reports by industries, while the unemployment rate is determined by reports from workers (whether employed or job-seeking). And although industries may be adding jobs, those positions may not necessarily get filled immediately – especially since the skills of the unemployed don’t always match up with the sectors that are growing.

It’s also worth noting the continuous bleeding of jobs in some of the public sectors. Local government jobs – city and county employees, such as those in transportation—are still in free fall in the Evergreen State, shedding 2,900 positions between July and August. While some of these workers may find jobs in other sectors, their skills may not fit current job openings.

For example, last month there was growth in the administrative support, construction and educational services industries. Although growth is good for the economy overall, a newly unemployed transportation worker may not have the requisite skills required to fill a position in one of these growing sectors.

Overall, Washington’s economy is slowly recovering from the drawn-out recession hangover, but the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high and families are continuing to struggle.

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