One month does not a trend make. But when the state preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.3 percent in December, it constituted an undeniable turning point. But to what?
First the data. Washington’s Great Recession unemployment rate topped out at 10.2 percent in the first three months of 2010. (This was a better showing than the 12.2 percent in November 1982, during the brutal recession where the Federal Reserve whipped inflation and millions of jobs). Since that peak, the rate has come down almost in stair-step fashion, reaching a low of 5.6 percent last July and August.
Then it started back up: 5.7 in September, 6.0 in October, 6.2 in November and 6.3 percent last month.
The conventional explanation is that the improving labor market is bringing out more active job seekers. And Washington created 82,600 jobs in 2014. By comparison, Arizona, a state with similar-sized population, created 63,100 jobs. Also, December’s rate is lower than the 6.7 percent in the same month in 2013.
Still, it’s worth noting today’s report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing 42 states had unemployment rate decreases from November to December; only four states reported increases.
It is always possible this is a statistical fluke. Or that Washington’s labor market and economy are unusually robust (King County unemployment was 4.1 percent, but much of the rest of the state was relatively high) and soon the jobless rate will tick back down.
But for now we have a trend and it’s headed in the wrong direction. I would welcome your thoughts on this topic (beyond “Talton your an idiot”) in the comments section.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
How many jobs must be bagged
To pay off Wall Street?