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Unemployment fell in October, but new restrictions loom over state economy

It remains to be seen how November’s new restrictions on businesses will affect the state’s economy, but in October, the unemployment rate fell once again and remains lower than the nationwide rate.

Washington added 1,000 jobs to its economy last month, dropping the state’s seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate to 6 percent, according to the Employment Security Department. The nationwide unemployment rate is 6.9 percent.

ESD also announced that September’s unemployment rate was revised down a tick to 8.3 percent from the previously reported 8.4 percent.

“The preliminary read on October payroll employment shows a very small increase once more,” said Paul Turek, the ESD’s statewide labor economist. “Upward revisions to the data in recent months show a stronger recovery, but renewed restrictions on business operations in response to mounting virus risk put the recovery in jeopardy.”

The unemployment rate breakdown by county was not available at press time. In September, Kitsap County was among the lowest in Western Washington.

Benefits were paid to 453,798 residents in October, which represents a decrease of 99,489 from September.

In October, seven industry sectors expanded while five contracted — the greatest increase was in the private sector, which added 14,100 jobs, while government employment fell by 13,100 jobs.

The industries with job gains were professional and business service (4,800 jobs); retail trade (4,100 jobs); leisure and hospitality (3,200 jobs); construction (2,400 jobs); education and health services (1,700 jobs); transportation, warehousing and utilities (400 jobs) and information (100 jobs).

During the week ending Nov. 14, the final week before restrictions in Washington were reinstituted, claims for all unemployment benefit categories were up 1.2 percent from the prior week (434,114 total claims). Initial claims saw a sharp drop, by 33.2 percent, but much of that was caused by a process requiring some claimants to submit a new initial claim to make sure they are receiving the correct benefits from the correct program.

Despite that drop, initial claims applications are still 123 percent above the same week in 2019. Since the pandemic began in March, the ESD has paid out more than $12.4 billion in benefits to over one million residents.

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