County jobless rate inches up to 8.4% in May

The unemployment rate in Whatcom County inched up from 8.1 percent in April to 8.4 percent in May, but that may be a sign that discouraged workers are returning to the job hunt, according to the Employment Security Department.

The total number of people employed rose by 710 to 95,840 in May, a sign that more companies are hiring. This may have led to an increase in the number of job seekers, which rose by 340 to 8,770 people.

Though both indicators show some optimism in the market, it is unclear at the moment whether the increase in jobs is just a seasonal fluctuation. Total employment in May was down 1,990 jobs compared to last year, but the steadiness of the job market in recent months indicates the labor market may be bottoming out, said regional labor economist Reinhold Groepler.

Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped slightly from 9 percent in April to 8.8 percent in May (not seasonally adjusted). In Skagit County, the unemployment rate was 10 percent and in Snohomish County it was 9.2 percent.

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