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Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:30 PM

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Latest statewide job growth stronger than in previous months

Seattle Times business reporter

Washington's jobs picture was mixed in July, and revised data shows that the first half of 2006 wasn't quite as red-hot as first appeared.

The state added 8,700 jobs last month, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Employment Security Department, but the unemployment rate edged up to 5.3 percent from 5.1 percent in June.

Evelina Tainer, chief economist for the department's Labor Market and Economic Analysis branch, said the increase in the jobless rate wasn't statistically significant. But since the rate was as low as 4.6 percent as recently as March, it's worth watching.

Employment growth remained strongest in the Seattle metro area, where the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent from 4.3 percent last month.

Growth in nonfarm payroll jobs — derived from a separate survey than the one used to determine the unemployment rate — for the first six months of the year was revised downward.

Instead of the 6,900-job average monthly gain that had been previously reported, Washington actually added an average 5,400 payroll jobs each month between January and June.

"On the whole, I think the numbers are still looking pretty good," Tainer said.

Public and private-sector education were among the strongest sectors in June, though Tainer said that might have been due as much to a calendar quirk as to actual growth. Retail was the weakest sector, losing 1,000 jobs, possibly reflecting a shopping slowdown in response to near-record fuel prices.

Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or ddesilver@seattletimes.com

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