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Originally published January 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 17, 2007 at 8:30 AM

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Strong job gains last year leave dot-com bust in dust

Even though it ended on a somewhat muted note, 2006 was still the best year for job creation in Washington in nearly a decade, according...

Seattle Times business reporter

Even though it ended on a somewhat muted note, 2006 was still the best year for job creation in Washington in nearly a decade, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department.

The state averaged nearly 2.87 million nonfarm payroll jobs last year, a gain of 3.2 percent, or 91,500 jobs, over 2005's average. That was the most nonfarm jobs added in a year since 1997, when 98,600 were created.

The year-end figures also show that 2006 conclusively marked the Puget Sound region's full recovery, in terms of total jobs, from the dot-com collapse and subsequent recession of the early 2000s.

However, job growth slowed in December from the pace set earlier in 2006, as retailers and government agencies cut payrolls and manufacturers added fewer workers than in previous months.

And slower growth is expected this year in the key manufacturing and construction sectors, said the state's top labor economist.

The state gained 3,300 nonfarm jobs last month, after adjusting for seasonal variations, according to the department's monthly report.

That compares with 5,300 jobs added in November, an upward revision from the 4,900-job gain first reported.

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 5 percent for a second month. It was 5.2 percent a year earlier, in December 2005.

"We had a pretty good month, though not as strong as we'd been seeing earlier this year," said Evelina Tainer, chief economist for the department's Labor Market and Economic Analysis branch.

Unemployment in metro Seattle fell a tenth of a percentage point in December, to 4.3 percent. The U.S. jobless rate in December was 4.5 percent.

For the full year, the unemployment rate averaged 4.9 percent. That was the lowest annual jobless rate since 1999, when it reached 4.8 percent.

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The biggest gains came in administrative and support services, which added 2,400 jobs in the month; and construction, adding 1,500 jobs.

Other gainers included food and beverage stores, which gained 700 jobs, and bars and restaurants, where 900 jobs were added. "People worked and then they went to eat, I guess," Tainer said.

Aerospace manufacturing gained 600 jobs in December, down from 800 in November. Overall, manufacturing in the state added just 500 jobs, down from the 1,600 increase posted in November.

Local governments cut 700 jobs in the month, 500 of them education-related, according to the official data. However, Tainer cautioned against reading too much into those figures, saying Washington and several other states have noticed anomalies recently with their public-school jobs numbers.

"There seems to be a shift in the way people are being hired for schools, and the seasonal adjustment we do doesn't seem to capture that," she said.

Transportation and warehousing lost 500 jobs in December. Retailers cut 200 jobs, as did the information sector.

All in all, nonfarm payrolls grew a seasonally adjusted 2.8 percent between December 2005 and December 2006. That was twice as fast as the national growth rate over the same 12-month period.

The year's strong growth in employment pushed payrolls to a level solidly above the high reached before the dot-com bubble burst.

For the four-county area (King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap), nonfarm payrolls had peaked in December 2000, at 1,752,600 jobs.

Over the next three years, payrolls ratcheted down, bottoming in January 2004 at 1,628,000 jobs — a 7.1 percent drop.

Since then, however, the metro region has more than regained those lost jobs. Nonfarm payrolls first climbed over the previous peak in November 2005 but fell back two months later.

Payrolls climbed above the 2000 peak to stay in April 2006; by December there were 1,815,500 nonfarm jobs in the four-county area — 3.6 percent above the previous peak, and 11.5 percent above the trough.

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

Oregon sees rise

in jobless rate

Oregon's work force shrank slightly in December as forecasts for a modest rise in nonfarm payrolls didn't pan out, the state reported Tuesday.

The unemployment rate was up a tenth of a percent, at 5.4 percent, over November.

The monthly figures showed the state's nonfarm payroll, adjusted for seasonal differences, declined by 2,100, leaving it at more than 1.7 million and about 1,500 lower than at the start of the fourth quarter of 2006.

Holiday hiring was weaker than expected.

Financial services and related enterprises continued to add workers at a strong clip, their monthly report said.

The Associated Press

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