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Washington Unemployment Rate Flat, Now Lags National Rate

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Washington Employment Security Department

According to the monthly update released Wednesday by Washington's Employment Security Department, the state’s unemployment rate stayed flat in February.

The 6.3 percent rate is the same as the revised rates for January and December. During much of the recent economic recovery, Washington's jobless rate ran below the national average. Last fall though, that flipped and now there's a widening gap.

The national unemployment rate is down to 5.5 percent.

State labor economist Paul Turek said hiring by local employers remains brisk and is attracting significant numbers of migrants from other states.

"Not all of them are employed instantaneously,” Turek said. “There's a carryover. Those join the ranks of the unemployed and have the impact of bumping up the unemployment rate.”

The jobless rate in neighboring Oregon used to run far above the national rate, but strong job growth has helped the state to make up a lot of ground. The latest numbers released Tuesday dropped Oregon's unemployment rate to 5.8 percent.

Meanwhile, Idaho can boast of one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation right now, pegged at 4.1 percent as of January.

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