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Unemployment Rate In Washington Lowest In More Than 5 Years

The unemployment rate in Washington state has fallen to the lowest level in five years.

New numbers for December from the Washington state employment department peg the current jobless rate at 6.6 percent. The last time it was lower was in November 2008.

State labor economist Paul Turek says there's been steady job creation over the past year. But he cautions some of the improvement can also be traced to discouraged workers simply dropping out of the workforce.

"I have some enthusiasm, but it is tempered enthusiasm," says Turek. "What we are seeing is job growth, but we are not seeing people respond to that to where it is sufficient to see more people coming into the market looking for jobs."

Turek's agency says the Seattle metro area has recovered all the jobs it lost during the Great Recession, but statewide there is still a little bit of catching up to do.

The unemployment rate also dropped to a five-year low in Oregon last month. New numbers released by the Oregon Employment Department Wednesday put the statewide jobless rate there at an even 7 percent.

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.