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Washington Unemployment Rates Drops Below 8 Percent

Andreas Klinke Johannsen

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s jobless rate has dropped below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years. The November jobs numbers out Wednesday peg Washington’s unemployment rate at 7.8 percent. That’s down from 8.2 percent in October – the largest one month drop since 1977.

But chief labor economist Joe Elling cautions the state is still far from what he would consider full employment.

“You know the Fed has said they’re waiting to see 6.5 percent," he says. "I think the other thing though too that again we have to consider is what the unemployment rate be if we had not had so many people dropping out of the labor force?”

That includes discouraged workers and students who are delaying entry into the job market. Elling says if you factor them in, the jobless rate in Washington is more like 10 percent.

Over the past three months, the biggest job gains in Washington have been in leisure hospitality, construction and retail. The economy is benefiting from a quirk of the calendar which means a longer than normal holiday shopping season.

On the Web:

November employment report (Washington Employment Security Department)

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."