The Washington area kept adding jobs at a healthy pace in June, even though job growth nationally slowed a bit.
The region added 82,000 jobs in the year ended in June, according to a Labor Department report issued yesterday. That is essentially the same pace as the year ended in May, when it added 82,300.
The region's unemployment rate was 3.3 percent in June, up from 3 percent in May. However, those numbers are not adjusted for ordinary seasonal variations, and the jobless rate remains the lowest of major U.S. cities and well below the 3.9 percent rate of June 2003.
There are broad indications that growth of the national economy has slowed a bit this summer, as retail sales and industrial production were both down in June. And the national economy generated 112,000 new jobs in June, compared with an average of 304,000 jobs each of the three previous months. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has called it a "soft patch" in the recovery.
Statistics on the local economy are more sparse and take longer to trickle out. But the June employment report is an early hint that the Washington region is continuing to grow at the same strong pace it did in the spring.
"Typically when growth of the national economy slows down, the Washington area follows suit," said Christine Chmura, president of Chmura Economics & Analytics in Richmond. "It seems right now that the national economy is slowing but the Washington metro area is not slowing as much."
The biggest generators of local jobs in the year ended in June were professional and business services companies. They added 31,000 local positions in the year ended in June, compared with 30,600 in the year ended in May. The growth is apparently driven by expansion among technology companies that do work for government agencies. Other types of professional services jobs seem to be doing worse; law firms cut 1,200 jobs in the year ended in June.
The number of construction jobs is rising quickly. Local construction firms added 12,700 jobs to their payrolls in the year ended in June, compared with 12,500 in the year ended in May.
"There seem to be an awful lot of construction projects starting now as builders and developers try to get them underway before interest rates go up much more," said William F. Mezger, chief economist of the Virginia Employment Commission.
The news wasn't uniformly good for local industries. The local telecommunications and manufacturing sectors, which have grappled with deep troubles for more than three years, still have fewer jobs than in June 2003.
The local health care sector, usually a reliable generator of jobs in good times and bad, shed 1,500 positions in the year ended in June, compared with a gain of 200 jobs in the year ended in May.