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Wash. State Jobless Rate Hews Closest To National Trend During Recovery

Washington State Employment Security Dept.

According to fresh numbers out Wednesday from the state employment department, the unemployment rate in Washington state edged up slightly in August to an even 7 percent as hiring slowed.

The latest figures follow a surprising trend: Washington's jobless numbers hew closer to the national rate than any other state over recent years.

Washington's statewide unemployment rate last month was just a tad below the national rate of 7.3 percent. Over the past five years, the Evergreen State's jobless rate has marched up and then down nearly in lockstep with the national average.

State labor economist Paul Turek charted it.

"A statement could maybe be made that if you really to see what goes on with the rest of the nation you have to turn your eyes to Washington state to see what happens there first."

Turek says this close correlation did not apply prior to 2007 and might not last.

"Our economy has moved. What we found is that we've been also developing out of (natural) resource-based into services-oriented industry."

That more closely mirrors the nation as a whole.

Neighboring Oregon and Idaho deviate significantly from the national unemployment rate. Idaho has consistently run lower and Oregon higher.

The state that has deviated most from the U.S. unemployment rate in recent years is North Dakota. This divergence can be attributed to rapid job growth tied to development of that state's oil fields.

On the Web:

August 2013 Unemployment Report - Washington Employment Security Dept. 
State unemployment rates (2003 to present) - U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.