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Originally published May 15, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Page modified May 16, 2013 at 11:46 AM

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State’s unemployment drops to 7 percent

Washington’s jobless rate fell in April to 7 percent, the lowest rate in more than four years.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Washington’s jobless rate fell in April to 7 percent, the lowest rate in more than four years.

The unemployment rate has fallen by half a percentage point since the year began, a sign the economy is gaining strength. In March the statewide rate was 7.3 percent.

“The labor market is continuing to improve at a moderate but accelerating rate, somewhat faster than the nation,” Scott Bailey, a labor economist for the state Employment Security Department, said in a statement.

While the national jobless rate declined to 7.5 percent in April, the Seattle area rate dropped by an even larger margin than the state or the nation — fourth-tenths of a point — to 5.1 percent.

A year ago, the April unemployment rate was 8.4 percent statewide and 7.3 percent in the Seattle area, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The last time unemployment was this low was 7.1 percent in December 2008, the department said.

In its monthly report, Employment Security also revised its gloomy March employment estimates from a loss of 5,500 jobs to a loss of 1,600 jobs.

Employers created a net 3,800 jobs in April, led by retail trade, which gained 3,800 jobs. Leisure and hospitality added 1,600 jobs; professional and business services, 1,500; other services, 600; manufacturing, 400; and financial activities, 300.

The sectors that lost the most jobs over the previous month were education and health services, down 2,500 jobs; construction, 1,100; transportation, warehousing and utilities, 500; and wholesale trade, 300.

Over the past 12 months, the state’s economy has gained 67,200 jobs, Employment Security reported. The sector most responsible for that jobs expansion was retail trade, which gained 15,700 jobs; that industry includes online retail trade, which was up 7,900 jobs.

Other industries with major gains in the 12-month period were leisure and hospitality, up 10,900; and manufacturing, 10,300, according to the state.

Construction, a sector decimated by the bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession, added 5,100 jobs over the year. Financial activities added 2,100 jobs over the year.

Washington has regained 78 percent of the 205,000 jobs lost during the recession, Employment Security said.

An estimated 243,100 people were unemployed and looking for work in April, the state said. That includes 130,792 who claimed jobless benefits. About 3,230 jobless workers ran out of benefits in April, the state said.

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

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