Layoffs, other factors bump up county jobless rate

The Snohomish County unemployment rate shot up in January to 8.7 percent from 8 percent in December as more people resumed job searches in the first month of 2012.

About 34,000 people were unemployed in the county in January, compared to 30,650 people who were jobless in December, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department. The department revised the county unemployment rate for December downward slightly, to 8 percent from 8.2 percent.

The January rise in joblessness in the county wasn’t unexpected.

In January, regional state economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman noted that the county’s unemployment rate in December didn’t capture the anticipated layoffs at Kimberly-Clark, which planned to slash 750 jobs by the end of March as a result of the paper and pulp mill’s closure. The county’s nondurable goods manufacturing industry, which includes employment at the mill in Everett, lost about 100 jobs in January.

The county also lost 400 jobs in the natural resources and mining industry sectors between December and January.

And retail businesses, which tend to reduce payrolls after the holiday season, dropped 400 positions in Snohomish County in January. Employment at general merchandise stores also declined by 400 jobs.

The county aerospace industry continued to add positions in January, increasing to 43,700 jobs from 43,500 in December. Also adding jobs in January were government agencies in the county, which took on 400 more workers, primarily in educational services.

Despite the county’s higher unemployment rate, Vance-Sherman found several positives in her report. The workforce expanded by 7,710 workers in January. The labor force has grown over the past decade. However, it has been relatively stagnant since 2009, which could be attributed to “discouragement and withdrawal of individuals from the job search process, enrollment in training programs, retirement” or people moving out of Snohomish County, Vance-Sherman said.

Vance-Sherman noted another positive sign in the county jobless report: In January, the construction industry, which was hit hard by the recession, reported the first year-over-year uptick in employment. From January 2011 to January 2012, construction employers in the county added about 600 jobs.

The state unemployment rate was lower than Snohomish County’s, at 8.3 percent for January.

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