Whatcom County sees job gains, higher unemployment

Whatcom County’s unemployment rate rose slightly between February and March from 9.3 percent to a preliminary 9.6 percent, while total non-farm employment increased by an estimated 600 jobs, not seasonally adjusted.

A 0.3 percent unemployment increase may not be cause for celebration, but it’s also not statistically significant, according to a press release from the Employment Security Department, which recently released regional employment data.

At the county level, there generally needs to be a 0.5 percent or greater change to be considered statistically significant, and even more for preliminary data, which is often revised, the report said.

On the other hand, a gain of 600 jobs isn’t exactly cause for celebration, either. That number isn’t seasonally adjusted, and year-over-year, March 2011 employment was actually down 400 jobs. Construction employment still is in the strongest downtrend, while leisure and hospitality is seeing the strongest uptrend in the county.

Statewide, a seasonally adjusted estimate of 1,100 jobs were added in March, while the unemployment rate edged up from 9.1 percent to 9.2 percent.

Industries that posted the most gains in March were professional and business services, up 2,700; wholesale trade, up 1,900; manufacturing, up 1,600; and financial activities, up 1,300.

As was the trend for Whatcom County, construction saw the most losses, down 2,400, followed by education and health services, down 1,800, and government, down 1,300.

Since March 2010, Washington has added an estimated 33,100 jobs.

“We’re picking up a little steam,” Employment Security commissioner Paul Trause said in a press release. “The consistent job growth we’re starting to see now is really encouraging.”

In March, an estimated 340,325 people (not seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work, and 228,911 people received unemployment benefits from the state.

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