State unemployment rate drops

And Walla Walla County's rate dropped to 6.5 percent in April.

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The state's unemployment rate dropped last month for the first time in three years, and Walla Walla County's went with it, according to numbers released this morning from the state Employment Security Department.

Washington's unemployment rate fell in April to 9.2 percent from 9.5 percent in March, thanks to an increase of about 5,800 jobs.

"This is further evidence that our economy is starting to turn around and is headed in the right direction," said Gov. Chris Gregoire, in a prepared statement. "The job growth is especially welcome news for job seekers."

Walla Walla County's unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 percent in April from an adjusted 8.5 percent in March. The number is about the same as last year's during the same period, said Regional Labor Economist Arum Kone.

He said Walla Walla's labor force has grown, as has the number of jobs. Nonfarm employment saw a .5 percent increase. "It's nothing robust, but it's not a decrease," Kone said this morning.

He said local residents could look at the job market with cautious optimism.

Sectors that have suffered job losses include construction and transportation and warehousing.

Construction jobs are down by about 125 positions, putting Walla Walla's roughly 850 construction jobs equal to 2001 figures, Kone said.

Across the rest of the state construction positions increased by 1,400, according to the figures from the Employment Security Department.

Other industries that added jobs in April in Washington were leisure and hospitality, up 1,800 positions; government, up 1,600 largely due to temporary Census work; retail, up 1,300; manufacturing, up 1,200; information, up 500; education and health services, up 300; and wholesale trade, up 100.

About 1,400 positions were down in transportation. Other industries that lost jobs were warehousing and utilities, which decreased by 500; other services, down 300 positions; and wholesale trade, down 200.

"I'm pleased to see growth in the construction and manufacturing sectors, which suffered the biggest losses in the recession," said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee, in a prepared statement. "We need those good-paying jobs to come back."

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