Whatcom’s unemployment rate rose in December, but not for the reason you might expect.
The unemployment rate last month was 5 percent, up from 4.3 percent in November, according to data from the state’s Employment Security Division. While up from a month ago, December’s unemployment rate is down significantly compared to December 2016, when it was at 5.8 percent.
Typically the unemployment rate rises in December as the holiday shopping season winds down and seasonal retail jobs start to disappear.
This year the number of retail jobs held steady between November and December at 11,400, while job cuts took place in manufacturing (down 400 in the past month), construction (down 200) and state government (down 200).
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The reason retail didn’t show much movement is that the data focuses on the middle of the month, at the peak of the holiday shopping season.
“That said, I do expect to see retail (job) losses in January and February,” said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state.
Vance-Sherman noted that from December 2016 to January 2017, Whatcom County shed 500 retail jobs.
The year-over-year numbers paint a different picture, with the number of Whatcom nonfarm jobs rising by 2,700. For the year, construction jobs increased by 800, while professional and business services rose by 400.
Local and state government added 1,000 jobs in the past year, according to the data.
King County had the lowest December unemployment rate in the state, coming it at 3.6 percent. Ferry County had the highest, at 14.1 percent. Skagit County’s unemployment rate was 5.8 percent