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Wash. March unemployment rate drops to 7.3 percent

Rachel La Corte, Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington state's unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent in March, the lowest rate in more than four years, but the state still saw a net loss of 5,500 jobs from the prior month, according to numbers released Wednesday.

The state's jobless rate had been at 7.5 percent for three months, but with the newest dip it's the lowest rate since December 2008, according to the state Employment Security Department. Earlier this year, state economists had reported that new numbers showed the state gained 24,200 jobs for the month of January and 5,500 for the month of February.

"We've seen a lot of volatility in the job-survey results, but the trend over the past year shows we're gaining jobs," Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a labor economist with Employment Security, said in a written statement. "The unemployment-rate survey has been more stable, showing a slow but steady drop in the unemployment rate."

In March 2012, the state's unemployment rate was 8.4 percent. Since then, Washington has gained a total of 53,000 jobs.

From February to March, government jobs saw a decrease of 4,600 jobs, professional and business services were down 2,500, and other services were down 1,000. Within government, most of the job losses, 1,500, were seen in state agencies, while 1,300 were in public higher education.

An estimated 254,000 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in March, including more than 136,000 who claimed unemployment benefits.

More than 3,100 unemployed workers ran out of unemployment benefits last month. A total of 135,236 people have exhausted their benefits since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.

The national unemployment rate last month was 7.6 percent.


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