Whatcom County's unemployment rate jumped in January as the private sector shed a significant number of jobs after the holiday shopping season.
The local unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in January, up from 7.1 percent in December, according to the data from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
This area's private sector shrunk by 1,500 jobs between December and January, while the public sector shed 200 jobs, according to the report.
Whatcom's unemployment rate was up slightly from January 2012, when it was at 8.5 percent. While down from December, the local labor force actually had 600 more private sector jobs compared to January 2012.
Whatcom's unemployment rate typically rises between December and January. Along with the end of the holiday shopping season, the data is typically readjusted after more detailed statistics from unemployment insurance claims become available. A more accurate picture of Whatcom County's labor force is to compare January 2013 with January 2012, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state.
"The unemployment rate tends to be the highest in January and February, then it starts to go down later in the year," Vance-Sherman said, noting that seasonal layoffs after the holidays are a big factor.
The local retail sector was particularly hit hard between December and January. In January an estimated 10,600 people were employed locally in retail, down 500 people compared to December. However, the retail sector was up by 200 people compared to a year ago, an indication of some growth in permanent jobs.
Other industry sectors experiencing significant one-month declines include leisure and hospitality (down 200 people), construction (down 200) and manufacturing (down 100).
The unemployment rate went up significantly in many counties across the state, particularly in rural areas. In nearby counties, Skagit had an unemployment rate of 10.4 percent, while Island (9 percent) and San Juan (8.8 percent) also were up.
Ferry County had the highest rate in the state at 14.9 percent, while Whitman was the lowest at 5.8 percent. According to the data, 21 of Washington's 39 counties had an unemployment rate of 10 percent or higher.
Seasonably adjusted, Washington's unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in January, while the national rate was 7.9 percent.