Whatcom County unemployment rate up in December

Whatcom County’s unemployment rate edged upward in December, following a typical seasonal pattern.

Last month’s rate was 6.4 percent, up from 6.1 percent in November, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department. The unemployment rate tends to rise in December as the holiday shopping season ends and seasonal workers are laid off.

Whatcom County’s December unemployment rate is also slightly higher than a year earlier, when it was 6.2 percent. One factor is more people are entering the labor force because they are more confident about finding a job, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state.

“I would expect to see the unemployment rate to rise again in January and possibly again in February — not because of labor market weakness, but due to the usual seasonal patterns of hiring,” Vance-Sherman said.

Vance-Sherman is more encouraged about the expanding labor force. In December, 98,900 Whatcom County residents were working, an increase of 1,930 compared to a year ago. According to the data 6,720 people were actively seeking work last month, up 270 people compared to December 2013.

King County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state last month, coming in at 4.1 percent, followed by Snohomish County at 4.5 percent. Skagit’s unemployment rate in December was 7.6 percent. According to the data 19 counties in Washington state had an unemployment rate above 8 percent; Franklin County had the highest rate at 11.3 percent.

Washington’s seasonably adjusted unemployment rate last month was 6.3 percent, while the national rate was 5.6 percent.