On March 5, we announced that Washington state now has more people working than before the start of the Great Recession. As with most labor-market data, there’s more to the story.
Before January 2014, our data showed we’d recovered about 83 percent of our recessionary job losses. But thanks to some statistical changes (benchmarking) by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics in January, the original estimate of 205,900 job losses was cut to 189,300. Simultaneously, the estimated job gains since the recession were revised upward by a similar amount. In an instant, the gap was erased.
What does it all mean? Think of it as an important milestone during our long recovery, not a declaration of victory.
It took four years to get here, and the recovery hasn’t occurred evenly throughout the state. We have more than 118,000 workers in Washington who ran out of unemployment benefits and still aren’t working. Also, our job growth hasn’t caught up with everyone in Washington who would like to have a job.
Prior to the recession, our statewide unemployment rate was a little over 4 percent. This past January, it dropped to 6.4 percent from a recession high of 10.2 percent.
Clearly, our recovery isn’t complete – and yet, just for a moment, it’s nice to celebrate how far we’ve come.
Sheryl Hutchison, Communications Director, Employment Security Department