By Donald Meseck, ESD’s regional labor economist serving Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Kittitas, Okanogan and Yakima counties.
This report incorporates not seasonally adjusted, nonfarm employment and civilian labor force data. Analysis focuses on year-over-year (between January 2014 and January 2015) and average annual (between 2013 and 2014) changes in the labor market.
Preliminary labor force data show that Washington state’s average annual not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased nine-tenths of a percentage point between 2013 and 2014, from 7.0 percent to 6.1 percent. Between the Januarys of 2014 and 2015, the rate stabilized at 7.0 percent.
In Yakima County, preliminary data indicate that the average annual unemployment rate decreased nine-tenths of a percentage point between 2013 and 2014, from 9.2 to 8.3 percent. However, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose five-tenths of a point in January 2015 to 12.3 percent, from 11.8 percent in January 2014 (as shown in Figure 1). Why? The number of unemployed residents grew more rapidly than the labor force, hence this five-tenths point year-over-year rise in the rate.
Figure 1. Yakima County’s unemployment rate increased five-tenths of a percentage point between January 2014 and January 2015.
On March 19, we announced that Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February was unchanged from January, at 6.4 percent, while jobs grew by an estimated 2,500.
In assessing the report, our labor economist said, “That’s a positive sign. The economy is holding its own.” Many people may wonder why it’s a good sign that the unemployment rate didn’t get better.
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.