OLYMPIA -- Washington's unemployment rate dropped for the fifth month in a row to hit a new low of 5.2 percent in December, according to state Employment Security Department.
"Washington's economy finished strong in 2016 and the short-term job outlook remains positive," said Paul Turek, economist for the department.
The pace of hiring also increased in December as Washington employers added 6,700 new jobs, up from 4,000 jobs in November.
The department released the seasonally adjusted, preliminary job estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its December Monthly Employment Report.
The national unemployment rate increased a tenth of a percentage to 4.7 percent in December. The unemployment rate in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area held steady at 3.7 percent.
Employment Security paid unemployment insurance benefits to 70,238 people in December.
Labor force increases in Washington
The state's labor force remained virtually unchanged at 3.69 million in December, an 800 decrease from the previous month. In the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region, the labor force increased by 1,000 to 1.65 million during the same period.
From December 2015 to December 2016, the state=92s labor force grew by 121,200 and the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett region increased by 61,600.
The labor force is the total number of people, both employed and unemployed, over age 16.
Eight sectors expand, four contract
Private-sector employment increased by 7,400 jobs and government employment decreased by 700 in December.
This month=92s report shows the greatest job growth occurred in leisure and hospitality with 3,400 new jobs created. In addition, information increased 2,500; retail trade expanded 2,200, wholesale trade was up 800, and financial activities added 300. Additionally, education and health services; transportation, warehousing and utilities; and manufacturing each added 200 jobs.
Other services faced the biggest reduction in December, losing 1,300 jobs. Government and professional and business services cut 700 jobs each, and construction fell by 400. Mining and logging employment was unchanged.
Year-over-year growth remains strong
Washington has added an estimated 82,300 new jobs from December 2015 to December 2016, not seasonally adjusted. The private sector grew by 2.6 percent or 68,300 jobs, and the public sector increased by 2.5 percent, adding 14,000 jobs.
From December 2015 to December 2016, 11 of the state=92s 13 industry sectors added jobs. Manufacturing (-5,900) and mining and logging (-100) were the only sectors to report job losses.
The three industry sectors with the largest employment gains year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted, were:
* Education and health services with 20,800 new jobs;
* Government with 14,000 new jobs; and
* Leisure and hospitality with 11,300 new jobs.