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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

March 17, 2009 at 2:45 PM

What’s behind the state’s scary jobless report

Not all states report their unemployment rates at the same time, so we don’t yet know the context of today’s troubling report on Washington jobless. Our state’s unemployment rate hit 8.4 percent in February, six-tenths of a percentage point worse than January and the most dismal showing since June 1985. This means more than 330,000 Washingtonians are out of work.

If misery deserves company, Oregon reported that its February rate hit 10.8 percent.The national rate is 8.1 percent. In Washington, the rural counties are particularly hard hit. For example, Cowlitz County in the southwest, has 14.4 percent joblessness. Stevens County in the east suffers at 14.7 percent. Yet even in diverse, prosperous metro Seattle, the rate increased to 7.8 percent from 4.1 percent in what seems like another era, February 2007.

What’s going on? This is a deep, global recession that is hitting nearly every sector at the same time. That’s what happens when the heart of the matter is a banking/credit crisis (ask our well-paid employees at AIG about this). Thus, Washington’s varied economy not only couldn’t resist the downdraft, but is increasingly caught in it as the recession continues. Then the bad luck/bad moves: Washington Mutual, Safeco, Weyerhaeuser, etc. No one dares to say we’ve seen the worst. Certainly not me.

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