Snohomish County jobless rate plummets to 7.1%

Snohomish County’s unemployment rate declined sharply in April to 7.1 percent — from 9.1 percent a year ago and 8.5 percent last month, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department.

Unemployment in the county is at the lowest level since 2008, when the recession began.

In comparison, the statewide jobless rate was 7.9 percent in April and 8.9 percent in March. Statewide unemployment in April 2011 was 9.1 percent. (Figures cited here are not seasonally adjusted.)

About 34,960 people were unemployed in the county a year ago, compared to 27,390 last month.

About 2,200 jobs were added in Snohomish County in April, mostly in the service sector of industries like telecommunications, utilities and health services.

Government payrolls were up 1,100 positions between March and April. Regional economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman noted that much of the hiring — both at the state and federal levels in Snohomish County — was in education. Local school districts, as well as community and technical colleges, added jobs in April, even as governments shed jobs in other areas.

The county’s manufacturing sector added 100 jobs in April. Hiring at the Boeing Co. and its suppliers has been largely responsible for the increase in manufacturing jobs over the past year. From April 2011 to last month, aerospace employment in the county increased 13.4 percent, or by 5,200 jobs.

The county logged 4,639 initial unemployment claims in April. The number of people who have exhausted unemployment benefits increased last month to 908. Due to the drop in unemployment in the state, the federal government last month scaled back the number of weeks it pays extended unemployment benefits. However, the number of weeks the state pays has not changed.

“A lot of people immediately dropped off (unemployment) in April,” Vance-Sherman said.

Vance-Sherman is keeping a close watch on employment in key areas like construction and financial services.

“Those are indicators for the rest of the economy,” she said.

Construction added 100 slots last month but remained down 100 compared to April 2011. From the point of highest employment to the lowest, the county’s construction industry shed 40 percent of its jobs. From January through March this year, the county’s construction industry showed gains.

The financial services segment, which includes banking, insurance and credit, held steady in April. Employment in the sector dropped when the housing market imploded in 2008 and 2009.

Since then, “there hasn’t been a lot of growth, but there haven’t been (job) losses,” Vance-Sherman said.

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