State Jobless Rate Hews Closest to National Trend During Recovery

Sep 19, 2013

The unemployment rate in Washington state edged up slightly in August to an even 7 percent as hiring slowed, according to new numbers released Wednesday from the state Employment Department.

The latest figures follow a surprising trend: Washington's jobless numbers hew closer to the national rate than any other state over recent years.

Washington's statewide unemployment rate last month was 7.0 percent—just a tad below the national rate of 7.3 percent. Over the past five years, the Evergreen state's jobless rate has marched up and then down nearly in lockstep with the national average. State labor economist Paul Turek charted it.

"A statement could maybe be made that if you really to see what goes on with the rest of the nation, you have to turn your eyes to Washington state to see what happens there first,” Turek said,

Turek says this close correlation did not apply prior to 2007 and might not last.

"Our economy has moved. What we found is that we've been also developing out of (natural) resource-based into services-oriented industry,” he said.

That more closely mirrors the nation as a whole.  Neighboring Oregon and Idaho deviate significantly from the national unemployment.

The state that has deviated most from the U.S. unemployment rate in recent years is North Dakota. This divergence can be attributed to rapid job growth tied to development of that state's oil fields.