Jobless rate climbs but remains down for year

rboone@theolympian.comJanuary 29, 2014 

The Thurston County unemployment rate remains below where it was a year ago, but that’s about the only silver lining in an otherwise lackluster end to 2013.

The county’s jobless rate inched up to 6.7 percent in December from 6.3 percent in November, according to state Employment Security Department data released on Tuesday, and hiring that took place throughout last year also took a hit at the end of the year.

During the previous year, the county added 900 jobs, but shed 700 of them in the November to December period, Employment Security regional economist Jim Vleming said.

At least December’s jobless rate was lower than the county’s year-ago jobless rate of 7.4 percent.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” Vleming said about the overall trend with jobless rates, “but it’s still not (falling) at the pace people expect.”

The state is still 20,000 jobs below where it was before the recession, said the state’s chief economist, Steve Lerch, who last week forecast more slow growth for the state this year in an address before the Washington Association of Realtors.

The total size of the county’s labor force also shrunk, similar to the trend that was noted in the seasonally adjusted statewide jobless figure that was released last week.

Employment Security labor economist Paul Turek cautioned that the shrinking unemployment rate statewide was largely due to people who stopped looking for work.

Shedding jobs to end the year has been the recent norm for the county’s economy. The county lost 600 jobs in the November to December period in 2012, followed by 400 in 2011, a little more than 1,000 in 2010 and 500 in 2009, Vleming said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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