Whatcom County's unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in nearly four years, with the private sector adding 2,400 jobs in the past 12 months.
Whatcom's unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in October, down from a revised rate of 6.9 percent in September. It's the lowest monthly rate locally since December 2008.
Year-over-year job growth took place in most local private sectors, led by trade/transportation (adding 600 people in the past year) and manufacturing (up 500). The number of people employed in manufacturing locally was estimated to be 9,100 in October, the highest monthly total since September 2008.
The public sector shed 200 jobs in the past year, all of which came from local government.
October is typically the month Whatcom posts the lowest unemployment rate of the year as schools get into full swing and holiday hiring begins. It then tends to rise in the coming months, peaking in February.
"What is encouraging is the long-term trend for Whatcom County," said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state. "It's been improving at a slow and steady rate, with the private sector driving the growth."
This area is outperforming the state in a variety of sectors. With a 3.7 percent increase in the past year, Whatcom's private sector employment is stronger than the state average of 2.5 percent. Whatcom is among the state leaders in job growth in the manufacturing sector, with a 5.8 percent increase in the past year.
Vance-Sherman noted that while the financial industry is a smaller sector in Whatcom County, its 6.7 percent annual increase also was a positive sign for the job market. Consisting of jobs such as bankers and investment advisors, that industry employed 3,200 people in October.
Whatcom's unemployment rate remains significantly lower than nearby counties, including Skagit (8.1 percent in October), Snohomish (7.1 percent) and even King County (6.5 percent). The lowest county unemployment rate was in San Juan (5.1 percent), while the highest was in Wahkiakum (11.7 percent).
Washington's unemployment rate, seasonably adjusted, was 8.2 percent last month.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269.