Washington unemployment rate rises, but state adds 12,000 jobs

Washington state’s unemployment rate rose to 9.3 percent in January from December’s adjusted rate of 9.2 percent. But state officials were pleased that the state added more than 12,000 jobs in January — the first monthly gain since 2008.

According to the state Employment Security Commission, Washington added 12,400 jobs in January, including 3,000 in retail trade and 2,800 in educational and health services.

“This is a positive sign for Washington state,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement.

The U.S. unemployment rate in January was 9.7 percent, down from 10 percent a month earlier.

In Seattle, the unemployment rate in January stayed at 8.9 percent, the same as in December 2009.

Employment in Washington’s construction industry increased by 2,700 jobs in January. It was the first time that the construction industry saw its payroll grow since January 2008. During the past two years, the construction industry’s monthly losses averaged 2,621 jobs.

All three of the major construction sub-sectors saw employment gains in January. Specialty trades contractors led the way, adding 1,600 jobs. That was about 60 percent of the construction jobs that were added in January.

Still, construction has a deep hole to dig itself out of, and economists say they don’t expect to see a major pick-up in building any time soon. In the past year, the construction industry — which employs about 147,000 workers in Washington — shed about 33 percent of its jobs.

Construction took a major hit during the recession, given the collapse of the housing market in the wake of the banking crisis that was fueled by a housing bubble.

The state delayed announcing January’s unemployment figures until Tuesday because “annual benchmarking” needed to be completed. February’s unemployment figures will be announced on March 16.

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