Thurston jobless rate dips to 6.9%

Education hiring contributes to drop; rate lowest since 2008

rboone@theolympian.comNovember 21, 2012 

Thurston County’s unemployment rate has finally fallen below 7 percent, dropping to its lowest level since 2008, according to state Employment Security Department data released Tuesday.

The jobless rate fell to 6.9 percent in October from 7.3 percent in September, helped by a gain of 1,600 jobs in the September-to-October period.

Most of that hiring took place in education, regional economist Jim Vleming said.

“We’re definitely going in the right direction,” he said.

It has been a long time since the county jobless rate was this low.

Unemployment rates fell sharply during the housing boom, with the real estate market creating plenty of jobs in construction as a result.

The average Thurston County jobless rate was 5 percent in 2005, 4.6 percent in 2006, 4.4 percent in 2007 and 5.1 percent in 2008.

Then the housing market slowed and the local economy slowed, too, producing average unemployment of 7.9 percent in 2009, 8.5 percent in 2010, 8.3 percent in 2011 and so far 7.7 percent this year, Employment Security data show.

Thurston County unemployment likely will remain around 7 percent through the end of the year, but it also might fall again depending on the strength of the holiday hiring season.

Once the new year is under way, the county jobless rate – if typical patterns hold true – will increase as a result of seasonal cuts to holiday jobs.

But the landing might be softer next year because of a new mattress factory in Lacey.

Mattress manufacturer Sealy is set to open a new plant in April in Hawks Prairie, creating more than 100 jobs in the process.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com theolympian.com/bizblog @rolf_boone

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