Jobs report: More jobs, but growing workforce pushes jobless rate up

Whatcom County employers added jobs in May, but a growing workforce pushed the unemployment rate up slightly from April.

Whatcom County’s estimated unemployment rate climbed to 5.8 percent last month, up from a corrected rate of 5.4 percent in April, according to the state Employment Security Department’s latest monthly employment report.

The 5.8 unemployment rate is down from 6.6 percent in May 2014 and, after a drop in April, nearly back to 5.9 percent, the revised unemployment rate for March 2015.

Whatcom County added an estimated 1,070 new jobs in May, but the number of unemployed residents — which the state counts as those who are unemployed but actively seeking work — grew from 5,550 to 6,020. A year ago, In May 2014, 6,730 county residents were unemployed.

From May 2014 to May 2015, Whatcom County added an estimated 3,900 jobs. As estimated 98,610 county residents held jobs in May 2015, according to the report.

The biggest job gains from May 2014 to May 2015 came in the mining, logging and construction; and the trade, transportation, and utilities sectors. The leisure and hospitality sector lost 300 jobs, making it the only industry in the report estimated to have fewer jobs this May than last. The federal government is the only other sector in the county that didn’t grow in that time frame, with no change in jobs from May 2014 to May 2015.

The report uses the North American Industry Classification System to sort jobs by industry.

Statewide, the unemployment rate also rose slightly to 5.3 percent, up from 5.0 percent in April. Whatcom county’s unemployment rate has been slightly higher than the state rate all year, but it’s following a similar trajectory.

Whatcom County’s unemployment rate compared favorably to other northwest Washington counties.

Skagit County’s unemployment rate was estimated at 6.6 percent. Island County’s jobless rate estimate was 6.1 percent. San Juan County outpaced all others in northwest Washington, with an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent.

King County had the lowest jobless estimate in the state in May at 3.7 percent. Snohomish County trailed with 4 percent rate.

Ferry County in northeastern Washington had the state’s highest jobless rate, at 9.9 percent.

The Employment Security Department’s monthly reports don’t include wage information.

Oliver Lazenby, associate editor of The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or

Tags: , ,

Related Stories