Yesterday, the Employment Security Department released state unemployment information for May, stating an unchanged number of 6.1%. In comparison, the national unemployment rate also came in unchanged at 6.3% for May. Is Washington State’s unemployment rate losing its downward momentum and will we continue to see an unchanged unemployment rate?
In addition to an unaffected unemployment rate, Washington also had the lowest number of job additions for May at approximately 4,000. For comparison, the average number of jobs our state has been adding each month this year has been around 6,500. Although there was a decrease in the number of jobs being added, the reported number of April job additions was updated to show our state gained almost 9,000 new jobs versus the reported 7,700.
What contributed to this low number of new job additions? First, most occupational areas saw a loss in the number of new jobs. Specifically, government and professional and business services reported the largest job losses at approximately 2,400. Other sectors with a few job losses include manufacturing of food and paper; wholesale trade; mining and logging; private education and health services; transportation, warehousing and utilities; and other services. On the flip side, the occupational areas that contributed to job gains and saw the largest increases in new jobs include retail trade, financial activities, information, leisure and hospitality, and construction.
From an overall job gain/loss perspective, Employment Security believes from May 2013 to May 2014, the number of jobs not adjusted for seasonality that were added for our entire state is close to 74,000. This number is down from what was estimated for the period between April 2013 and April 2014, which was 77,600.
So, where could Washington be headed from here in terms of the economic situation? While our state has previously seen a fairly steady decrease each month in the unemployment rate and the number of job gains were relatively substantial and often adjusted up by Employment Security, the unchanged unemployment number coupled with a decrease of over 50% in the number of new jobs from April to May could mean our economy is leveling out and becoming stable. However, it will remain to be seen until June and July numbers are released whether or not this could be the case.