April 24, 2017
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State's unemployment rate hits 10-year low, but rates vary dramatically across Washington

Washington’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in nearly a decade, according to a report from the state Employment Security Department (ESD).

The report notes that in March, Washington gained 10,700 nonfarm jobs ranging from leisure and hospitality to mining and logging. As a result, the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.9 in February, to 4.7 percent — the lowest rate since August 2007.

Unemployment rates from March are nearly a whole percent lower than last year’s numbers, according to the report. Unemployment for March 2016 was listed as 5.6 percent statewide.

While the state’s overall economic outlook seems to be improved, it is difficult to ignore that economic prosperity is not being experienced evenly throughout the state.

For example, ESD’s most-updated unemployment map (February) lists nine rural Washington counties with unemployment rates double the state’s average. ESD’s data only shows two counties in the entire state that are under that state’s unemployment average: King and Snohomish.

The metropolitan Central Puget Sound area — Snohomish, King and Pierce — are averaging 4.36 percent unemployment whereas, the rest of the state is seeing unemployment rates around 7.6 percent.

That’s a big disparity.

Some Washington counties are continuing to struggle to bounce back from 2008’s Great Recession. This was affirmed by Steve Lerch, executive director of the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, during an AWB-hosted Lobby Lunch. It was also a hot-button item during AWB’s Rural Jobs Summit in March.

While the state’s overall economic success is something to celebrate, lawmakers must not forget about the Washington counties that continue to struggle.

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