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Unemployment rate drops in Whatcom County

Whatcom County's unemployment rate dropped significantly in June as some jobs were added, but the labor force also shrunk.

The unemployment rate was 5.2 percent locally last month, down from a revised rate of 6.3 percent in May, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

June's unemployment rate was the lowest for this area since October 2008.

The number of people employed in Whatcom County last month was 97,670, up 700 compared to the month of May and up 1,080 compared to a year ago.

The overall labor force, which includes workers and those actively seeking employment, was 103,040 last month, down 460 compared to May and down 920 people compared to a year ago.

A variety of factors could be involved in the shrinking local labor force, said Jim Vleming, a regional labor economist for the state. Reasons include retirement, going back to school, leaving the area or giving up looking.

Vleming said the shrinking labor force is a trend happening across the state.

Year-over-year local private sector employment is up in several industries, including construction (up 600 people), leisure (up 700) and professional services (up 400).

The lowest unemployment rate in the state last month was in San Juan County, at 3.7 percent. King County was at 4.7 percent, while Skagit came in at 5.9 percent.

The highest unemployment rate was in Ferry and Grays Harbor counties, at 8.5 percent.

The seasonably adjusted state rate was 5.8 percent last month, while the national rate was 6.1 percent.

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