Private sector grows statewide, shrinks locally

By Ryan Wynne

Washington’s private sector may have picked up an estimated 1,000 jobs in September, but the Bellingham economic region lost approximately 200 private sector jobs, according to preliminary data in the Washington State Employment Security Department’s monthly employment report.

That’s the worst news for this region in the report, the rest of which shows a declining unemployment rate and some government sector growth.

The local region’s unemployment rate fared better than overall state unemployment. Regional unemployment was 7.7 percent in September, which is 0.5 percent lower than it was in August and 0.3 percent lower than in September 2009. It’s also lower than the statewide unemployment rate for September 2010, which was 9 percent for the second month in a row.

Overall, payroll jobs in the state were down 3,200 from August 2010 to September due to the loss of an estimated 4,200 government jobs. During that time, the same sector in Bellingham picked up 300 jobs, which is normal growth for that time period, said Reinhold Groepler, a regional labor economist with the Employment Security Department.

Year-over-year, though, this region’s government sector is down an estimated 200 government jobs, while private sector jobs declined by 500.

This year’s private non-farm payroll jobs since January are at about the average over the past 10 years in this region, and the seasonal growth since January is about average. Still, Groepler said year-over-year declines aren’t all that surprising because jobs have fallen from high levels, so the county will need higher seasonal growth rates over a few years to recover to prior levels.

“You will need some stronger growth rates, otherwise you are just treading water,” Groepler said. “You are not sinking but you are not moving ahead.”

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