County unemployment decreases to 8.8% as state mark stalls

A state economist said Washington’s slight jobless rise conveys the delicate nature of the situation.

EVERETT — Three months removed from historically high unemployment rates, Snohomish County’s jobless mark continues to improve despite the state rate plateauing.

County unemployment was at 8.8% for July after being slightly above 10% the month prior. The state mark jumped slightly to 10.2% after dipping to 10% in June, according to figures from the Employment Security Department.

A year ago, unemployment in Snohomish County was 3.2% and the state mark was 4.3%.

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the agency covering Northwest Washington, said in an email that the state uptick is a reminder of how delicate the economic situation is as businesses grapple with a rapidly changing situation.

“I think we are still on shaky ground, and a shaky unemployment rate serves as an affirmation of that uncertainty,” she said.

Statewide, unemployment is at its highest in Pend Oreille County at 14.4% followed closely by Grays Harbor County at 14%. Asotin County’s 7.5% unemployment was the lowest in the state with King County next at 8.3%. These numbers are subject to change as they are adjusted for predictable seasonal variation.

In April, Snohomish County had the worst jobless rate in the state, double the mark set during the Great Recession a decade ago. While jobs in the county have rebounded quicker than most places, more than 38,700 residents remain unemployed and 408,000 people are jobless across state.

“I’m not optimistic yet,” Vance-Sherman said. “The unemployment rate looks positive, but the numbers beneath the surface are disturbing.”

She cited year-to-year county data that details a 3,000-person labor force reduction, as well as a more than 6% decrease in people reported as employed and an increase of nearly 25,000 people reported as unemployed.

In Snohomish County, the leisure and hospitality industry gained 1,400 jobs last month, but aerospace manufacturing was down 1,200 jobs and the educational and health services sector also lost 1,000 jobs.

A survey of Washington businesses by the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasted a gain of 44,500 jobs in July.

“We are figuring out how to navigate an increasingly familiar — albeit still highly uncertain — environment,” Vance-Sherman said. “A number of jobs bounced back following the initial plunge as rules and norms became better understood.”

A similar comprehensive estimate from June showing 71,000 jobs gained across the state was revised to a gain of 140,600 jobs.

Vance-Sherman said revisions are common as new information is received. Considerable fluctuation like this should be anticipated for the July numbers as well, due to the uncertainty of the economy and business operations.

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 www.heraldnet.com/support.

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