- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Washington state has more jobs than before the start of the recession, with a January unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, the Employment Security Department reported Wednesday.

Washington added 3,800 jobs between December and January. State economists say they now believe Washington didn’t lose as many jobs as originally thought and has more than recovered from recession job losses.

Previous data suggested the state lost about 205,000 jobs from February 2008 through February 2010. After further study and analysis, economists now believe the losses were around 189,000.

A recent statistical update also found Washington had gained more jobs last year than previously announced, resulting in a net job growth from February 2010 through January 2014 of nearly 193,000 jobs.

The new analysis showed Washington’s recession was not as bad and its recovery a little faster than previously thought, thanks to fewer job losses overall and 18,000 more jobs gained this past year than were originally estimated.

“It’s good to see this has become less pronounced,” said state labor economist Paul Turek.

The new analysis, called benchmarking, was directed by the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists replaced some estimates with real data to get to the new numbers, Turek said.

State officials say the strongest growth was in private sector jobs. Over the past year, the private sector has added 58,700 jobs, while government jobs have grown by an estimated 2,700.

The January 2013 unemployment rate in Washington was 7.3 percent.

Washington’s unemployment rate rose as high as 10.2 percent at the start of 2010 but has been falling steadily ever since. The state says some 222,000 people are still looking for work.

Washington unemployment peaked at 158,000 in February 2008, but population increases did not keep up with job growth, explained Sheryl Hutchison, spokeswoman for Employment Security.

Despite the positive job news, Turek characterized the state’s recovery as slow and long.

“It’s taking a little more time to completely recover,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new efforts to help the long-term unemployed. He is asking local workforce development councils to submit ideas by April 17 about how to spend $4 million in federal dollars to help people who have run out of unemployment benefits and were still out of work.

Washington’s unemployment rate is below the national rate of 6.6 percent for January. Washington’s adjusted rate for December was 6.7 percent.

State officials say the unemployment rate in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area of Western Washington has dropped to 5.2 percent.

The job gains in January were mostly in construction, education, health services and government. Job losses were seen in trade and professional and business services.

Big gains were seen in construction, where 2,500 jobs were added. Jobs in education and health services grew by 2,300. Government added 1,100 jobs. Transportation, warehousing and utilities grew by 900 jobs. Information jobs jumped by 800, leisure and hospitality jobs increased by 700 and manufacturing jobs grew by 600.

Professional and business services lost 2,700 jobs. Retail trade shed 1,700 and wholesale trade lost 600 jobs. Financial activities dropped 500 jobs.

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