A restaurant on Colby Avenue in Everett displays its lit-up “Open” sign. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

A restaurant on Colby Avenue in Everett displays its lit-up “Open” sign. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

70,000 jobless, but county unemployment rate decreases by 3%

After “disastrous April,” state economist says business is slowly coming back as Washington reopens.

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s unemployment rate rebounded slightly in May following a record-high jobless mark, but nearly 71,000 people are still out of work.

The 16.2% rate — a reprieve from April’s state-leading numbers — put Snohomish County closer to the state’s 14.8% unemployment rate reported by the Employment Security Department.

“The 3% decrease in unemployment doesn’t necessarily mean we are substantially seeing an improvement in the economy,” said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist with the Employment Security Department. “Yes, there is an improvement, but it has to be taken in the context of a devastating April.”

Vance-Sherman said that while unemployment rates shoot up like a rocket, it often comes back down like a feather, so progress may be slow. Leisure and hospitality and construction were the only industries to add jobs in May, both are down more than 20% from this time last year.

Similarly, Washington added 52,500 jobs in May, but more than 300,000 initial unemployment claims were filed during the month.

The county unemployment rate also benefited from an 11,000-person decrease in the size of the labor force, a change which Vance-Sherman credited to the circumstantial nature of living during a pandemic.

Statewide, Grays Harbor County had the highest unemployment rate at 19.3% followed by Pierce and Pacific counties at 16.9% each. Neighboring Skagit County landed at 16.6% and King County was lower at 14.3%. These numbers may change as they are adjusted for predictable seasonal variation.

On June 5, Snohomish County moved into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase plan to reopen Washington. The transition opened restaurants, retail stores, places of worship, barber shops and nail salons, with capacity restrictions.

Vance-Sherman said the return to operations should have a visible impact moving forward.

“Business that were basically unable to exist for about a month are beginning to open up,” she said. “We are beginning to see employment numbers come back slowly.”

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to https://www.heraldnet.com/support/.

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