Jobs report: Whatcom County's private sector continues growth

Whatcom County’s economy continued to add private-sector jobs in July, while the local unemployment rate stayed below levels from 2012, according to recent estimates from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

The county’s private sector added an estimated 1,900 jobs in July, compared to job totals from the same month one year ago. Year-over-year growth was particularly strong in local leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and retail industries.

Initial estimates put Whatcom County’s unemployment rate at 7.3 percent in July, equaling a revised rate from June 2013 and below a 7.7 percent jobless rate in July 2012.

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist with the Employment Security Department, said the overall employment picture in Whatcom County showed a number of positive signs in July.

But one caveat remains. Growth was sluggish in the county’s overall workforce, which measures the total number of people employed and unemployed in the area, according to the state’s recent estimates.

Whatcom County lost an estimated 1,660 people from its workforce—an overall drop of 1.6 percent—between July 2013 and July 2012. From June to July of this year, the workforce shed 960 people.

“That’s kind of been the concerning point for me,” Vance-Sherman said. “Fundamentally, we want to see more people entering the workforce.”

Among local industries that added jobs in July, compared to employment statistics from one year ago, goods production added 900 (up 6 percent), leisure and hospitality added 700 (up 7.7 percent), manufacturing added 600 (up 6.7 percent), retail added 500 (up 4.7 percent), construction added 300 (up 5.1 percent) and professional and business services added 200 (up 2.9 percent).

A significant drop in local government jobs, both on a state and municipal or county level, was reported between June 2013 and July 2013. Vance-Sherman attributed that to seasonal job losses in the education field, as local public schools, colleges and universities closed or scaled back for summer break.

She said such a trend was typical in areas with a large number of education workers.

While its month-to-month loss totaled an estimated 2,300 jobs, Whatcom County’s government sector actually added 100 jobs in July 2013, compared to July 2012.

Job losses were also seen in the local trade, transportation and utilities sector, which shed 400 jobs in July 2013, compared to one year ago, according to the state’s estimates.

Whatcom County had 2,036 continued jobless benefit claims in July, according to the Employment Security Department. That’s down from 2,477 continued claims during the same month last year.

Elsewhere in northwest Washington, Skagit County had an initial unemployment estimate of 8.4 percent in July. Island County was at 8 percent.

San Juan County posted an initial jobless estimate of 4.9 percent, which was the lowest estimate across the state in July.

Out of Washington’s 39 counties, eight saw jobless estimates under 7 percent in July. Only three counties had estimates that remained above 11 percent.

In the Puget Sound area, King County was at 5.1 percent. Snohomish County was at 5.6 percent.

Ferry County, in northeast Washington, had the highest unemployment estimate, at 11.9 percent.

Evan Marczynski, staff reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or

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