Jobs: unemployment rate low, but slowing trend in hiring

The unemployment rate in Whatcom County stayed low in September, but there were fewer non-farm jobs in the county than there were last September.

The unemployment rate remained at 5.3 percent for the month, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department. It was 5.3 percent in August and 5.2 percent in July.

The County’s unemployment rate has hovered above 5 percent since June, when it dropped 1.2 percentage points from 6.3 percent in May.

The number of non-farm jobs in the county in September was 84,100, which is up from August but down 100 jobs from September 2013. Regional economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman said year-over-year numbers are more important than monthly changes for looking at employment trends. 2014’s numbers for non-farm employment have lagged behind 2013’s since June.

“The trend that we’ve been seeing is a slowing trend,” she said. “Speaking in terms of broad trends what we saw was substantial growth in Whatcom County early on in the economic recovery, but now that’s slowing.”

Whatcom County industries with the largest year-over-year job gains in September included leisure and hospitality with 600 new jobs, business and professional services, with 500 new jobs, and mining, logging and construction with 300 new jobs.

Manufacturing and goods producing industries also grew in the last year.

“What we’ve seen this month is really consistent with what we have been seeing — growth in construction and manufacturing,” Vance-Sherman said. “Retail and finance is really having trouble getting off the ground.”

Statewide, the construction industry gained the most jobs in September, with an estimated 2,900 hundred by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Leisure and hospitality lost the most jobs statewide, at 4,800.

The civilian labor force shrank by 1,260, to 101,970 according to data from the state Employment Security Department. Vance-Sherman said that change is seasonal and mostly due to students returning to school.

“When I see that kind of swing coincide with the school year, that makes sense to me,” she said.

Whatcom County’s unemployment rate in September was lower than the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.7 percent. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for September was 5.9 percent.

But seasonally adjusted state and national numbers aren’t comparable to Whatcom County’s rate of 5.3 percent, which is not seasonally adjusted.

San Juan County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state, at 3.7 percent, followed by Garfield and Chelan counties, with 4.4 percent.

King County’s 4.8 percent unemployment rate was the second lowest in Western Washington.

Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Source: Washington State Employment Security Department



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