State unemployment rate drops to 9.8 percent

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington state added 71,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate dropped from 15.1 percent to 9.8 percent, the biggest month-to-month drop in 30 years, authorities said Wednesday.

However, the state’s economy continues to be wracked by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many businesses are still closed or operating at reduced capacity.

“The gain in nonfarm payroll employment coupled with the revision to May’s job gains are a welcome surprise and another step in the right direction,” Paul Turek, economist for the Employment Security Department, said in a statement. “That said, the road ahead looks to be bumpy as the virus continues to spread, creating a less predictable situation for the economy reopening.”

The department also announced that May’s preliminary estimated gain of 52,500 jobs was revised to a gain of 146,400 jobs. And officials said the state paid unemployment insurance benefits to 565,800 people in June, a decrease of 149,742 over the previous month.

Authorities said the private sectors that gained the most jobs over the month were retail trade (19,400 positions), leisure and hospitality (18,100) and education and health services (14,800).

But the shutdowns due to coronavirus have had a broad impact on Washington’s economy.

The Employment Security Department said from June 2019 to June 2020 all major industry sectors lost tens of thousands of jobs — led by the leisure and hospitality sector, which saw 135,800 positions vanish and the government sector lose 46,700 positions.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said the statewide pause for counties looking to advance from their current stage of economic reopening will continue though at least July 28.

The pause — implemented earlier this month — was originally intended to be in place for two weeks for the state’s 39 counties, which are in various phases of a four-stage economic reopening plan.

But Inslee said that rising case counts mean there is a “significant risk” that parts of the economy may have be closed again if the current trends don’t change.

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