County unemployment rate rises

By Mike Benbow Herald Writer

Snohomish County’s unemployment rate rose in June to 9.6 percent as the county lost about 1,600 temporary census jobs, the Employment Security Department reported Thursday.

The increase in the jobless rate was a jump from May, when the revised rate was 9.2 percent. But unemployment remains significantly lower than its peak in January, which was 10.5 percent.

That’s in contrast to the state jobless rate, 8.9 percent, which dropped in June for the third straight month. It, too, was 9.2 percent in May. Many of the eastern counties in Washington saw their jobless rate fall in June. In Spokane, the rate dropped 0.6 of a percentage point to 8.5 percent; in Yakima, the rate dropped 1.2 percentage points to 8 percent. Unemployment also went up in King County, rising 0.3 of a percentage point to 8.2 percent.

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Employment Security’s labor economist for Snohomish County, said there was some job growth in the county last month, but it was mostly seasonal in areas such as construction and tourism.

“Employment in construction saw its first signs of growth between May and June,” she said. “Four hundred of the 500 new jobs in goods producing industries came from construction.”

She noted that construction “is an industry that has been hit harder than most in this current recession. It is also an industry that signals the health of the larger economy.”

Vance-Sherman also noted that the county’s labor force grew in June by 770 people to an estimated 383,760.

Such an increase generally means that people who had not been seeking work and were not counted in the labor market have now again started looking for jobs.

Initial claims for unemployment also grew in June by 485 people, from 4,890 to 5,375, Vance-Sherman said. She noted that the number of people receiving final benefits also increased, adding “more people seem to staying on unemployment insurance longer.”

Statewide, the 8.9 percent rate is the lowest since April 2009. The national rate was 9.5 percent in June.

The state added about 4,500 private-sector jobs last month, but also lost 8,000 government jobs. About half were census positions.

“It’s very encouraging to see private-sector hiring starting to pick up,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee.

Locally, Vance-Sherman said the increase in construction work helped jobs in the goods producing sectors increase, while the census decline and a reduction in the number of teachers cut the number of jobs in service sectors.

That’s the reverse of what had been happening in the county, where most of the new jobs were in service industries.