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Unemployment rising fast throughout the state

Juan Frias, an installer with All City Fence, places a chainlink panel in front of the now closed Initial Tropical Plants, formerly Rentokil, warehouse in the 2400 block of 76th Avenue S.E. last week. A Safeway store was the original tenant. Plans for construction of a mixed-use development at the site have been approved by the city, but it is not known when it will be built. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Juan Frias, an installer with All City Fence, places a chainlink panel in front of the now closed Initial Tropical Plants, formerly Rentokil, warehouse in the 2400 block of 76th Avenue S.E. last week. A Safeway store was the original tenant. Plans for construction of a mixed-use development at the site have been approved by the city, but it is not known when it will be built.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

By Joshua A. Hicks
Reporter Newspapers

The state’s unemployment rate jumped to 7.1 percent in December, marking a 13-percent rise over the previous month and the largest increase for that time span since 1976.

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the percentage of working age persons in Bellevue had risen to 4.3 percent by November, representing the highest level since 2004. The city fared better than Washington that month by 2.1 percent.

The state’s unemployment figures lagged behind those of the nation for the first three quarters of 2008, but the numbers are virtually even now.

Growth in the service sector helped offset losses in Washington’s goods-producing sector for the first three quarters of last year.

That trend ended in December, when 13,100 service jobs were lost for a total of 31,600 during the fourth quarter.

The state lost 29,300 jobs in December, and an estimated 251,728 residents were unemployed and looking for work that month, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department.

Over 90,000 new unemployment applications were filed in December, according to Employment Security.

“Like every state in the country, the workload has strained our systems and we’re working very hard to catch up,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee. “In barely a year, we’ve gone from historically low unemployment to record numbers of people applying for unemployment benefits.”

Unemployment rates during the last recession topped out around 8.3 percent in January 2002.

The current numbers are lower, but there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to the losses.

Employment Security is predicting that credit-dependent industries, such as construction and manufacturing, will continue dumping workers until the nation’s financial system fully recovers.

Job losses have affected nearly ever sector, with the worst losses coming in manufacturing, services and construction.

Growth occurred during December in aerospace, education and health services. State government jobs increased by 500 jobs.

King County regional economist Desiree Phair said the state would do well to nurture its many start-up companies in order to spark growth.

“That would probably provide the most growth and stability for our region,” she said.

Phair also noted that the state’s larger companies will have to do their part to help the economy recover.

“In terms of short-term turnaround, the thing that’s going to fix this six months from now is solid business decisions from those places,” she said.

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at jhicks@bellevuereporter.com or (425) 453-4290.

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