County’s jobless rate inches up and it’s not clear why

  • By Mike Benbow Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, December 14, 2010 9:08pm

We’re going the wrong way.

The unemployment rate in Snohomish County rose to 10 percent in November, the second straight month of increases, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday. The rise from a revised 9.9 percent jobless rate in October and a 9.6 percent rate in September compares to unchanged rates in neighboring King County (8.7 percent) and the state as a whole (9.2 percent).

Why?

There are no simple answers, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state agency.

“The challenge right now is that we’re trying to find what that trend is,” Vance-Sherman said.

She noted that King County’s economy is a bit more diverse and has shown that with consistently lower unemployment.

Snohomish County saw new claims for jobless benefits rise in November by 468 people, from 5,272 laid-off workers in October to 5,740 last month.

A variety of job categories dropped workers in November. Goods-producing sectors, such as those in construction and manufacturing, lost 500 employees last month. What was more common were smaller job losses of 100 workers in categories including financial activities, hotels, real estate and rental leasing.

Jobs in aerospace, which had been buoyed in recent months by hiring at the Boeing Co. as it ramps up production, were flat in November.

The one bright spot in our employment picture was the obvious one — retailers hired 800 people in November as they got ready for the Christmas season.

There were few other jobs available.

Vance-Sherman said Snohomish County has been in a holding pattern all summer with only modest changes in the job picture.

“The industry that grew the most jobs between October and November was retail trade,” she said. “The industry that suffered the biggest losses was construction. Hiring patterns within both of those industries are highly seasonal in nature.”

The county’s economy had relied heavily on construction because lower priced real estate meant that home building was a major activity here before the recession. That could be one reason why Snohomish County’s economy isn’t rebounding like King County’s, Vance-Sherman said.

“That ended up hurting us,” she added.

Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459; benbow@heraldnet.com.

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