Whatcom County’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in nearly nine years, partly because of a surge in construction jobs.
The local unemployment in March was 5.4 percent, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department. While the rate has hovered around 5.5 percent in five of the last six months, the last time it was at 5.4 percent was August 2008.
The agency estimates Whatcom County had 7,400 people employed in construction in March, an increase of 800 people compared to February. A year ago, the industry employed 6,600 people. Other industries saw little change from February to March.
The seasonal ramp-up in construction jobs is bigger than in recent years, indicating the recovery has finally arrived in the industry, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state. It took longer for construction to recover from the recession in many places outside the Seattle metro area, she said.
“Momentum has been building, and this shows up in building activity,” Vance-Sherman said.
The number of Whatcom County residents actively seeking work was 5,846 in March, down 504 compared to February. In the past year Whatcom County has added 2,100 non-farm jobs, according to the data.
At 3.1 percent, King County continued to have the lowest rate in the state, followed by Snohomish County at 3.5 percent. Ferry County had the highest rate, at 13 percent.