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Whatcom unemployment rate drops below 6 percent

Whatcom County's unemployment rate dropped below 6 percent for the first time in more than five years.

The local rate in April was 5.8 percent, the lowest since November 2008, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

The drop in the local unemployment rate doesn't appear to be from overall job growth. In April 96,630 Whatcom County residents were employed, up 120 people compared to April 2013.

The number of people actively seeking work last month was 5,960, down 1,030 compared to a year ago. That would suggest some demographic changes are taking place, such as people giving up looking for work and changing the family work structure, retiring or moving out of the area.

"There are some demographic pressures taking place that are causing people to leave the workforce," said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state.

Vance-Sherman was pleased to see some job growth trends in the private sector locally, including in construction (up 300 people year over year), professional services (up 500) and leisure/hospitality (up 600).

Whatcom's unemployment rate was among the lowest in the state. King County had the lowest in April at 4.3 percent. Skagit County continued its steady improvement, dropping to 6.6 percent. The highest unemployment rates were in Ferry and Grays Harbor counties, each coming in at 9.9 percent.

The state rate in April, seasonally adjusted, was 6.1 percent.

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