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Originally published August 13, 2014 at 10:45 AM | Page modified August 13, 2014 at 6:58 PM

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Job growth in state eclipsing go-go ’90s; jobless rate falls

Seattle Times business reporter

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Washington state’s jobless rate continued to fall in July, dropping to 5.6 percent — its lowest since August 2008.

In all, 7,300 jobs were created in July, the state Employment Security Department reported Wednesday.

June’s job growth, which was already the highest monthly increase this year, was revised from 9,100 jobs created to 13,600. The unemployment rate for June held steady at the previously reported 5.8 percent.

June’s revision and July’s gain brought Washington’s average monthly job increase so far this year to 7,400, state labor economist Paul Turek said.

“This surpasses what we were adding on a monthly basis in 2005,” he said. “We would have to go back into the 1990s to find a period where we were adding more jobs.”

Locally, joblessness in the Seattle area, which includes Bellevue and Everett, also dropped to 4.7 percent last month, even as the national unemployment rate saw a slight increase to 6.2 percent.

A key question during the economic recovery has been how jobs being created compare to the jobs lost during the Great Recession.

As more jobs are being added across the country, lowering the unemployment rate, a new report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors says the new jobs on average pay much less than those lost during the recession.

Nationally, the average yearly wage of jobs added through the first half of this year was $47,171, and they were mostly in lower-wage categories such as administration and support services, retail, food and health care and social assistance, the report said.

By comparison, the higher-wage jobs lost in 2008-2009 averaged $61,637 and were in manufacturing, construction and the wholesale trades.

However, Washington does not follow that trend. The state had positive wage growth through the recession, and last year the average wage topped $52,000, a 2 percent increase from 2012, said Jeff Robinson, a manager for labor market analysis with the state Employment Security Department.

In Washington, the job sector hit the hardest during the recession was construction, losing 48,500 jobs, Robinson said. It is also the sector struggling the most in the recovery, beginning June 2009.

But with companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing around Seattle, the new jobs, replacing those lost, are not strictly low-wage jobs in hospitality and administrative support.

The retail sector, which includes Amazon, has grown almost 12 percent since the start of the recovery.

Professional and business services has seen about 14 percent growth through the economic recovery as well. Included in that sector is “computer systems and design services,” which encompasses a lot of Seattle’s tech companies and grew 39 percent right through the recession, Robinson said.

“We are seeing a lot more growth in jobs across the wage spectrum,” Turek said. “We saw the low wage job growth, but we are also seeing the high wage. What was missing was the middle wage industries — and over the last year, we’ve seen middle wage start to occur more.”

In July, the largest job increases statewide were seen in the professional and business services sector, with 4,500 new jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality with 4,000, construction with 2,300 and both retail and education and health services up 1,100.

“As employment has grown and people have more money to spend, people are traveling and eating away from home,” Turek said, explaining the large jump in jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector.

On the downside, government shrank by 2,100 positions since June. The transportation, warehousing and utilities industry also lost 1,700.

The state’s labor force, which includes unemployed job seekers, decreased again in July, this month by 4,200.

While a growing labor force is an indicator of a strong post-recession economy, but Turek said it is more important to look at the data yearly, than monthly.

“On a monthly basis there is going to be some volatility,” he said.

Nearly 93,000 jobs were added in the state over the one-year period ending in July, according to the state’s monthly report. Year over year, Washington saw growth in every industry except manufacturing, which experienced a loss of 300 jobs.

Just under 196,000 people were looking for work in the Washington in July, including more than 64,000 who claimed unemployment benefits.

Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or On Twitter @coralgarnick

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