This photo shows a sign at the headquarters for Washington state’s Employment Security Department Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

This photo shows a sign at the headquarters for Washington state’s Employment Security Department Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Snohomish County sees second-lowest unemployment in the state

Only two counties had jobless rates below 4.0% in Western Washington. King and Snohomish counties were virtually neck-and-neck.

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s unemployment rate in December was 3.6%, the second-lowest in the state and a small improvement from the previous month’s 3.9%, according to the state Employment Security Department.

Only Snohomish and King counties had rates below 4.0% in Western Washington.

Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate has held steady for the past two months at 3.7%. Washington’s unemployment dropped to 4.2%, down 0.2% from November.

The unemployment rate accounts for people who do not have a job, are available for work and have been looking for jobs in the past four weeks.

To the south, King County had the lowest rate in the state, 3.5%. To the north, Skagit was at 5.6%. The highest unemployment rate was in Ferry County, 9.4%.

When the pandemic first hit, unemployment in Snohomish County soared to a record-breaking 19.1% — nearly double the previous record of 10.9% in December 2009. After May 2020, unemployment in the county remained high but steadily decreased until the last months of 2021, when it returned to pre-pandemic levels.

In February 2023, the rate dipped as low as 2.6%, before creeping back up.

The Employment Security Department data states over 7,700 jobs were created across the state in December 2023, most of them in the private sector.

Jim Vleming, the department’s labor economist for the region that includes Snohomish County, said there were 4,400 more jobs in Snohomish County last month compared to December 2022. He said the leading industries for growth were manufacturing, professional and business services, government, education and health.

However, from November to December 2023, there were 1,100 fewer jobs because of a slower winter job market in Snohomish County.

“While jobs within the county shrunk slightly, job opportunities in neighboring counties were good,” he said, adding remote work could be a component.

He expected this slight drop in local opportunities, mostly in goods and retail, to reverse soon.

“I think we’ll see that pick up again in the next couple of months,” he said. “You’ll see that bounce back in February and particularly March.”

Looking at the numbers, Vleming is optimistic we’re not heading toward a recession.

“The momentum is so strong,” he said. “I don’t think that I’d be concerned about a recession at this point.”

Aina de Lapparent Alvarez: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @Ainadla.

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