Whatcom unemployment rate drops below 7 percent

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 21, 2013 

Whatcom County's unemployment rate dropped below 7 percent in April, led by broad job growth in the private sector.

The official rate in April was 6.9 percent, the lowest level since November, according to data from the state Employment Security Department. This area gained 600 private sector jobs between March and April. Private sector employment was up by 500 people compared to April 2012.

The private sector growth took place in a variety of industries in the past year, including retail trade (up 500 people), manufacturing (up 300) and leisure/hospitality (up 200). Construction employment remains significantly slow, down 700 people compared to last year.

"Most sectors either grew or held their own over the month and over the year. Although overall growth is not particularly high, it is encouraging to see the long-term growth continuing," said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state.

While this area has posted some private sector growth, fewer people are participating in the local labor force. In April Whatcom had 103,540 people either working or actively seeking work, down 3,230 compared to last April. Vance-Sherman said Whatcom continues to deal with "discouraged workers," people that have given up looking for work.

Vance-Sherman expects Whatcom's unemployment rate to continue with its usual seasonal ups and downs but with an overall downward trend. The local unemployment rate typically rises between May and August, then goes back down in September.

King County continued to have the lowest unemployment in the state, posting a rate of 4.4 percent. Snohomish also continued to do well in the labor market, posting a 4.9 percent unemployment rate.

Skagit's unemployment rate was 8.3 percent last month. The highest unemployment rate last month was in Grays Harbor, at 12.1 percent.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read his business blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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