Whatcom's unemployment at 6.5 percent in November

Whatcom County posted an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent in November, according to initial estimates from the state Employment Security Department.

The rate was above a revised October estimate of 6.3 percent, in part reflecting layoffs of seasonal workers common as holiday shopping wraps up.

Still, Whatcom’s unemployment has inched downward over the past year. Last month’s rate was nearly one percent below the level from November 2011, when it stood at 7.4 percent.

Whatcom’s overall workforce tallied 108,110 people last month, with 7,070 unemployed yet actively seeking work.

Short-term job growth between October and November was led by service-providing industries, including trade, transportation and utilities (up 400 jobs), as well as retail trade (up 300). State economists estimate 11,000 people were employed in retail in Whatcom County last month.

Year-to-year growth has come from the county’s private sector. Employers in natural resources and mining increased workers by 10.5 percent since November 2011, adding 600 jobs. Financial activities employment increased by 6.9 percent, adding 200 jobs since last year.

Additional sectors with strong job growth since 2011 include trade, transportation and utilities (up 700 jobs), construction (up 600) and manufacturing (up 400).

The public sector is the county’s largest employer by sheer numbers, with an estimated 16,800 people currently employed by state, local or federal governments. But public-sector job growth had been flat since 2011.

Compared to other counties in the state, Whatcom’s unemployment rate was among the lowest posted last month.

In northwest Washington, Skagit County was at 8.4 percent unemployment, Snohomish County was at 6.9 percent and Island County posted 7.4 percent.

San Juan County has the lowest rate in the region, at 5.7 percent.

Elsewhere, Whitman County posted the lowest rate in the entire state, at 5.2 percent. Lewis County had the highest, at 11.5 percent.

Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was estimated at 7.8 percent last month. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted rate was 7.7 percent.

Unemployment rates at the county level are not seasonally adjusted due to their smaller sample sizes, according to the Employment Security Department, so they should not be compared directly to seasonally adjusted statewide or national rates.

Contact Evan Marczynski at evan@bbjtoday.com or call 360-647-8805. 

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