Jobs Report: Whatcom’s unemployment dips to 6.5 percent

Continued private-sector job growth in August pushed Whatcom County’s unemployment level to its lowest point in 2013, according to the latest figures from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

The county posted a 6.5 percent jobless rate in August 2013, according to initial estimates. That’s down from 7.7 percent in August 2012, and also a drop from a revised rate of 7.2 percent in July 2013.

Whatcom’s private sector had an estimated 1,900 more jobs in August 2013 than it had during the same month last year.

More than half of those gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector, whose total employment grew 10 percent between August 2012 and August 2013, adding an estimated 900 new jobs.

Local leisure and hospitality business is poised for additional growth.

Blaine’s Semiahmoo Resort re-opened under new ownership in mid-August. In Bellingham, two new hotels are expected open by the end of 2013, and two others should be ready to break ground over the next eight months.

Other sectors that saw year-over-year growth in Whatcom County, according to the August 2013 figures, include: goods producers (gain of 600 jobs), retail (up 500) and manufacturing (up 400).

No private industries reported year-to-year job losses. But the financial activities and the professional and business services sectors showed no job growth in August 2013, compared to last year.

Government jobs are also up when comparing figures from August 2013 and August 2012. Local offices have added 300. State agencies added 200. Federal employment levels showed no change.

Growth in Whatcom County’s overall labor force, which has lagged for most of the year, continues to stagnate.

The county’s total civilian labor force—which factors in residents who work in agriculture, and those who work outside of the county—shrunk by 1.2 percent in August 2013, compared to the same month the year before. State economists estimated that Whatcom’s labor force contained 103,870 people in August 2013.

Whatcom County’s August jobless rate was among the lower rates estimated in northwest Washington.

Skagit County’s unemployment was at 7.7 percent. Island County posted a 7.1 percent rate.

San Juan County had a jobless rate at 4.3 percent, which was the lowest out of all 39 counties in Washington.

The state’s highest unemployment estimate was found in Grays Harbor County, at 11 percent in August.

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

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