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Originally published Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 10:03 PM

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How state jobs picture stacked up in 2010

The retail sector added the most jobs, followed by information/high tech. But both sectors' payrolls were down from 2008 levels, a reminder that full recovery is a long way off.

Seattle Times staff reporter

December marked the first month since September 2008 that Washington state saw year-over-year job growth in nonfarm employment.

That good news is tempered with the sobering reality that the state's economy has seen 189,000 jobs disappear since its last peak in February 2008. Employment statewide hit bottom last February, and since then the economy has generated an average 1,730 jobs each month. At that pace, it would take at least nine years to replace just the jobs lost.

More sectors added jobs than lost jobs last year. Here's a look at how some major sectors fared in 2010, compared with 2009. The seasonally adjusted data come from the state Department of Employment Security:

State and local government: Down 4,400 jobs, or 0.9 percent. The economy's biggest employer, state and local government (including K-12 and higher education) is already 2.2 percent off its November 2008 peak of 480,400 jobs and will continue to shed jobs to balance out declining tax revenue. In 2010 state government decreased by 2,300 jobs, and local government by 2,100.

Retail: Up 6,900 jobs, or 2.3 percent. Shoppers spent more during the 2010 holiday season than at any time since before the recession, boosting the fortunes of all retailers, including Amazon, Costco and Nordstrom. However, retail employment in December was still nearly 6 percent below its January 2008 peak. The sector's job growth last year was driven by online retailers, general merchandise stores and clothing stores.

Professional and business services: Up 1,000 jobs, or 0.3 percent. Within this category, employment services led the way, adding 3,100 jobs. The sector's December employment was 8.8 percent off its April 2008 peak of 319,400 jobs. For clarity, we've moved jobs in computer systems design out of this sector to the information/high-tech sector.

Health and social services: Up 3,500 jobs, or 1.1 percent. Most of the jobs in this sector are in health care, and that's where job creation is strongest. Hospitals added 1,500 jobs, ambulatory clinics 1,000, and nursing and residential care facilities 500.

Leisure and hospitality: Up 2,200 jobs, or 0.8 percent. While hotels didn't add jobs, the restaurant industry added 2,100 jobs over the year. December's employment was nearly 7 percent below the sector's March 2008 peak.

Construction: Down 10,400 jobs, or 7 percent. A job-creation engine during the mortgage boom, this sector hasn't stopped hemorrhaging since the downturn started. The bulk of the 2010 losses was in the specialty trades such as bricklayers and carpenters, which also comprise the majority of the sector's jobs. Since the June 2007 peak of 210,800 jobs, more than one-third of these construction jobs are gone.

Finance, insurance and real estate: Down 3,900 jobs, or 2.8 percent. Banking shed 2,400 jobs and real estate, 1,100, as 11 more Washington banks failed and the housing market dipped after the expiration of federal tax credits for homebuyers. The sector's employment in December was 14.8 percent below its December 2005 peak of 157,100 jobs.

Information/high-tech: Up 4,600 jobs, or 3 percent. Computer-systems-design services and software publishers powered job growth in this sector, adding 3,100 jobs and 1,400 jobs, respectively. December's payrolls were 3.6 percent below the August 2008 peak employment of 162,700 jobs.

Aerospace manufacturing: Up 1,200 jobs, or 1.5 percent. Boeing and its suppliers in the region accounted for the bulk of the 2,000 jobs gained in manufacturing in 2010. This category's payroll last peaked in February 2009 at 86,200 jobs. December's employment was down 4.4 percent from that peak.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or sbhatt@seattletimes.com

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