Whatcom's February unemployment estimated at 8.6 percent

Whatcom County’s unemployment rate in February was unchanged from one year ago, but up slightly from the rate in January, according to preliminary estimates from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

The county’s February jobless estimate was 8.6 percent, up from a revised 8.4 percent unemployment rate in January. County-level unemployment estimates are not adjusted for seasonal factors (statewide estimates are adjusted) due to their smaller sample sizes. Preliminary estimates are typically later revised once more data is collected by state economists.

A recent trend of monthly retail industry losses continued in February, with the sector shedding an estimated 100 jobs last month. Drops in retail jobs are common after the holiday shopping seasons end. But year-to-year employment statistics show retail businesses in the county have added about 400 jobs overall between February 2012 and February 2013.

Whatcom’s civilian labor force shrunk by 2.6 percent to 103,360 since February 2012, and the number of people counted as unemployed dropped by 2.7 percent to 8,910 from February 2012 estimates, according to Employment Security.

Elsewhere in northwest Washington, San Juan County’s February jobless level was estimated at 8.7 percent, Island County was at 9 percent, and Skagit County was at 10.3 percent.

King County, the state’s most populous, posted the lowest jobless rate statewide at 5.6 percent. Snohomish County (6.3 percent) and Whitman County (6.4 percent) in eastern Washington were the only other counties to fall under 7 percent unemployment last month.

Sparsely populated Ferry County had the highest jobless estimate in February, at 15.1 percent.

Evan Marczynski, lead reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or evan@bbjtoday.com

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