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Whatcom's unemployment rate jumps to 7.6 percent in February

Whatcom County's unemployment rate rose last month as more people were actively looking for work.

The local unemployment rate in February was 7.6 percent, up from a revised January rate of 6.7 percent, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

While up compared to last month, the unemployment rate is down from 8.1 percent in February 2013 and 8.6 percent in February 2012.

January and February are typically the months with the highest unemployment rate in Whatcom County.

The total number of Whatcom County people working last month was 96,350, an increase of 110 from the previous month. However the number of people actively seeking employment was 7,930 in February, an increase of 980 from January.

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state, said she expects Whatcom's unemployment rate to start dropping this spring as the weather improves.

"What I'm glad to see is the year-over-year growth in jobs," she said, noting that the number of local private sector jobs has increased by 1,700 in the past year.

According to the data, 84,900 people were employed in nonfarm jobs last month, up 600 from January and 1,900 from a year ago. Year-over-year, construction is one of the industries with the most significant growth, adding 500 people. Retail added 300 people in the past year, while manufacturing was down 200 people.

At 5.2 percent, King County continued to have the lowest unemployment rate in the state last month, followed by Snohomish County at 6 percent. Skagit County's rate last month was 8.8 percent. The highest unemployment rate in the state was Ferry County, at 13.7 percent.

The state's unemployment rate, seasonably adjusted, was 6.4 percent in February.