State jobless rate steady; Walla Walla's falls

But although fewer people are losing jobs, the number seeking unemployment benefits is not decreasing.

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OLYMPIA - Washington's unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent in October as the state rode five straight months of private-sector job growth, officials reported Wednesday.

Washington's latest unemployment figures, compiled by the state Employment Security Department, also showed an uptick in government hiring after four consecutive months of job losses.

October's jobless rate matches the revised 9.1 percent reported for September. It's also roughly even with the 9.2 percent reported a year ago.

October's national unemployment rate was 9.6 percent.

The jobless rate for Walla Walla County dropped to 6 percent in October from September's 6.4 percent rate. But the figure was up from the same period last year when unemployment was at 5.5 percent.

Regional labor economist Arum Kone said the number of initial unemployment claims has decreased from last year. However the number of people receiving unemployment insurance is not decreasing.

"That does show that there are a lot less people being laid off, but it's taking them a lot longer to get back into the work force," Kone said.

He said the health-care sector continues to be strong in Walla Walla, as does state and local government employment. That could change depending on cuts expected by the end of the year from the city. Kone said job losses that had been expected at the state level through schools have not shown up in the numbers yet either.

Though Walla Walla hasn't been as affected by the recession as other parts of the state, Kone said recovery could take longer because new jobs aren't being created here as rapidly.

For Washington as a whole growth in service work outperformed goods-producing jobs last month, according to Wednesday's employment report.

The strongest private sector growth was seen in professional and business services, which added about 1,500 jobs.

Overall, the largest reported gains in October were about 4,000 jobs in government work, nearly all of them in education. There were big losses for that category in September's report, but the agency said the statistical swings are tied to seasonal adjustments in the education work force.

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