Regional private sector job growth better this year than last

By Ryan Wynne

Washington’s private sector picked up 3,100 jobs in July, while the Bellingham economic area’s private sector remained flat compared with June.

Meanwhile, unemployment numbers show little movement. The unemployment rate locally decreased from 7.9 percent in June to 7.8 percent in July. The state unemployment rate fell from 9 percent in June to 8.9 percent.

The big news for the Bellingham area is the drop in government sector jobs, said Reinhold Groepler, a regional economist with the state Employment Security Department.

“Government decreased by 2,600 jobs from June to July [locally],”  Reinhold said.

That loss of mostly state and local government jobs accounts for almost all of the decline in employment in the area, he said, but its not all that unusual compared with the same time period in years past.

The loss of government jobs has been slightly tempered by gains in the private sector. So far in 2010, the local area has seen an increase of 2,200 private sector jobs, which is an improvement from 2009, when 100 jobs were lost in the same time period, Groepler said.

“There’s a modest expansion in the private sector going on, but it’s being offset by the decline in government jobs,” Groepler said.

Again, total state numbers show a similar story. Since the beginning of 2010, Washington has added 21,100 private-sector jobs. But when government jobs are factored in, the total net gain during the past seven months drops to 19,800 jobs.

In the Bellingham area this year, the sectors that have seen the most job gains are goods producing industries such as construction and manufacturing, up 600 jobs, and leisure and hospitality, which is up 400 jobs. Government has seen the most losses locally, similar to the statewide trend.

“The big question is where do we go from here, and my crystal ball is a little cloudy on that,” Groepler said.

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