Snohomish County jobless rate rises slightly

By Kurt Batdorf Snohomish County Business Journal

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s unemployment rate edged up from 8.7 percent to 8.9 percent in February, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

But year over year, there was improvement. The unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in February 2011.

The aerospace sector, which has been the major driver in non-farm employment increases for 18 months in the county, added just 100 jobs from January to February. Local government services added 300 jobs, 200 of which were in education, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, the regional labor economist with Employment Security. The professional, scientific and technical sector also added 300 jobs in February.

However, job losses in other sectors dragged down employment during February. The total of non-farm workers fell from 255,800 to 255,200, while total private employment fell from 218,700 to 217,800.

Total non-farm employment contracted between January and February, while the general trend over the course of 2011 was toward growth, Vance-Sherman said. Over the past three months, employment figures in Snohomish County have declined, but this is not necessarily uncommon in the first months of the year, due to seasonal employment fluctuations.

“It’s always discouraging to see the minus signs” that represent job sector losses, she said. “There were pretty big declines in retail, but since it’s seasonal, it’s a continuation of holiday hiring trends.”

The retail sector lost 800 jobs in February, as did the trade, transportation and utilities sector, Employment Security reported.

But over the year, total non-farm employment in Snohomish County increased by 10,600, or 4.3 percent, Vance-Sherman said in her analysis of the county’s labor data. The private sector has been responsible for job growth. The industry with the greatest employment gains was manufacturing, which added an estimated 6,800 jobs to the local economy, increasing payrolls by 12.3 percent between February 2011 and February 2012.

Manufacturing is continuing to grow, but the aerospace hiring frenzy has begun to taper off, she said.

Vance-Sherman was particularly happy with the construction employment numbers she saw. It means that people in a position to build new homes and office buildings, after nearly four years of recession, are starting to do so, which will help move the economy forward, she said.

“Construction looks like it’s finally hit bottom,” she said. “That’s huge. I’m really encouraged.”

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102,