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Washington Jobless Rate Unchanged In March, But Steady Job Gains Continue

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Washington Employment Security Department

The unemployment rate in Washington state held steady at 5.8 percent for the fourth consecutive month in March. But in its latest jobs report out Wednesday, the state employment department reported steady hiring across most of the economy.

State labor economist Paul Turek said Washington has gained nearly 100,000 jobs in the past year, but a fresh influx of job seekers is keeping the unemployment rate from going down.

"What is happening is that we've got a sudden surge in the size of the labor force, primarily beginning this year,” Turek said. “When we see that on a shorter term basis it tends to indicate that there were (previously) discouraged workers -- or workers that were harder to employ.”

Turek expects Washington's unemployment rate to decline eventually if the economic expansion continues.

In Oregon meanwhile, the state unemployment rate tumbled to 4.5 percent in March -- the lowest mark since comparable record keeping began way back in 1976. Idaho will report its latest jobs numbers later this week.

The national unemployment rate stands at 5.0 percent.

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.