UPDATE: South Sound jobless rates rise in May

Unemployment rose slightly in May in Thurston and Pierce counties, but the similarities ended there.

Pierce added 2,300 jobs in the April-to-May period, while Thurston shed 800 jobs in the same period, according to state Employment Security Department data released Tuesday.

Recovery to pre-recession job levels is still several years away, according to nationwide study.

The Thurston job losses in the April-to-May period nearly mirrored the downward move in job creation experienced in the state last week, when it was announced that it had shed 700 jobs last month. That was the first decline in job growth for the state since August.

Thurston also showed no gains in retail trade, construction and manufacturing and professional and business services in the April-to-May period, regional economist Jim Vleming said.

“I was expecting a drop in unemployment (in May), but it didn’t materialize, and we lost any punch we had,” he said. Thurston’s jobless rate had been moving in the right direction until last month.

It fell to 8.1 percent in April from a preliminary 8.7 percent rate in March, then rose last month to 8.3 percent. The seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for May was 9.1 percent, and the national jobless rate was the same. Some Washington metropolitan areas might not regain jobs lost during the recession peak until 2014 or later, according to a new nationwide study from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Pierce County’s jobless rate rose to 9.8 percent from a revised 9.6 percent in April, although regional economist Paul Turek said the county’s jobless rate virtually was unchanged because the preliminary jobless rate for the county in April was 9.8 percent.

More important were the 2,300 jobs created in the county last month, surpassing the 1,800 created in the county in the same period a year ago, Turek said.

“Propelling that (increase) was a better-than-expected increase in construction activity, largely in residential construction,” he said. Of the 2,300 jobs created in the county last month, construction led the way with 1,500.

Still, one possible area of concern for Pierce County was the 600 jobs lost last month in retail trade, a sign of some continued slowness in the economy.

“The consumer hasn’t retreated but slowed their spending a bit,” Turek said.

The study predicts that the 135,300 jobs lost in the Seattle-Tacoma area since the first quarter of 2008 won’t be regained until the first quarter of 2014.

In the Olympia area, where job numbers didn’t start falling until the fourth quarter of 2008, the full job recovery likely won’t happen until the fourth quarter of 2014. The Olympia area is down 7,200 jobs from its jobs apogee.

Bremerton and Silverdale likely will recover later still, in the second quarter of 2015, while Bellingham will have to wait until the first quarter of 2016 to recover its 8,000 lost jobs, the study predicts.

Forty-eight metropolitan economies, many of them concentrated in a belt of auto and manufacturing cities in Michigan and Ohio, won’t recover their lost jobs until after 2020, if ever.

Those cities include Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, Dayton and Youngstown, the latter three all in Ohio.

Staff writer John Gillie contributed to this report.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403