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OLYMPIA-Unemployment in Washington State dropped two tenths of a percentage point to 5.6% in September, according to data released Tuesday by the State Employment Security Department. Nationally, unemployment rose by two tenths to 5.1%, according to the state agency.

The roughly 16,100 striking Boeing workers in September were not considered unemployed by the state, so did not affect the unemployment rate, according to the report. However, federal standards did count striking workers as unemployed, so instead of statewide seasonally adjusted employment increasing by about 5,500 jobs in September–which is about the monthly average over the past year–it officially decreased by 10,600 jobs. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, the strike turned a 2,200 job gain into a 13,300 job decline,

Due to the strike, the federal employment numbers give a “misleading, negative portrayal,” said Rick Kaglic, the agency’s chief economist, in a conference call with reporters. “Business activity remains strong; a lot of firms still have ‘help wanted’ signs hanging out.”Over the year, payroll employment in Washington increased by 55,500, or 2%, according to annually benchmarked data, which compares to a nationwide increase of 1.6%. Quarterly benchmarked estimates, which use more current employer data, show an even stronger gain in the state from last September: 70,100, or 2.6%, according to the agency.

Statewide, employment is back above pre-recessions levels, says Kaglic. However, in the Seattle area, which was hit harder than the state as a whole, employment is still slightly below pre-recessions levels.

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