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Originally published May 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 15, 2007 at 5:31 PM

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State's jobless rate falls to 4.4% — a new low

Unemployment in Washington fell to a record-low 4. 4 percent in April, the third straight monthly decline this year, the state Employment...

Seattle Times business reporter; Seattle Times business reporter

Unemployment in Washington fell to a record-low 4.4 percent in April, the third straight monthly decline this year, the state Employment Security Department said today.But a closer reading of the data showed that most of the gain occurred in the Seattle metropolitan area and in a handful of industries.

The jobless rate, adjusted to account for seasonal variations, declined from March's 4.6 percent. The March figure had tied the previous low, in November 1999, since the current series of unemployment statistics began in 1976.

The seasonally adjusted rate for the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan area dove even lower, to 3.8 percent from the 4.4 percent recorded in March. That was the lowest since that data series began in 1983.

But the payroll employment report, which is measured separately from the unemployment rate, grew by just 2,900 jobs in April, up from a revised 700-job loss in March. The past two months represent a significant slowdown from the pace in January and February, when the state added a cumulative 18,100 jobs.

What's more, April's increase was due almost entirely to growth in King and Snohomish counties, which together gained a seasonally adjusted 4,300 payroll jobs. Spokane, Whatcom, Yakima and Cowlitz counties together gained 1,800 jobs, but the rest of the state lost a combined 3,200 jobs.

The construction industry continued to defy the national housing slowdown, adding 900 jobs in April and reversing a loss of the same size in March. Administrative and support services gained 1,600 jobs, and bars and restaurants added 500.

Overall manufacturing employment declined, however, mainly due to 900 jobs lost in food processing, despite a 200-job gain in aerospace. Several other key industrial sectors — retail trade, information, financial services, education and health services — were either flat or up or down just slightly.

The unemployment rate is measured primarily through a survey that asks people if they are working or actively looking for work — not, as often thought, by counting how many people receive unemployment-insurance benefits.

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

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