OLYMPIA – A steady stream of people picked up job applications Tuesday to work at the new Trader Joe’s store on the city’s west side, a reminder of the tighter job market created by the slower economy.
The state Employment Security Department announced Tuesday that Washington’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 9.3 percent in June from 9.1 percent in May as it continued to inch closer to the national rate of 9.5 percent.
In Thurston County, the jobless rate fell from a preliminary figure of 8 percent in May to a preliminary 7.7 percent rate in June, the data show. Although the unemployment rate fell, the South Sound economy shed 200 jobs from May to June, regional economist Jim Vleming said Tuesday. Those jobs were lost in the trade, transportation, warehousing and utility industries, he said.
Some encouraging signs could be found, Vleming said. Thurston County’s jobless rate remains below the statewide average, 124,240 total people had jobs in the county, and the construction sector added 100 jobs last month, which could be a sign of more seasonal hiring to come, he said.
Statewide, nearly 330,000 people were unemployed last month, including more than 10,000 in Thurston County, according to state Employment Security Department data.
On Monday and Tuesday, 1,000 people picked up job applications near the Trader Joe’s store under construction at 1530 Black Lake Blvd., spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said. The store, once set to open in the fall, now is expected to open toward the end of summer, she said. Mochizuki would not disclose a specific opening date, the number of employees to be hired or a wage range for employees. Washington’s minimum wage is $8.55.
Leihla Scharlau, 36, of Olympia, said she picked up an application because, after graduating from college a year ago, she hasn’t been able to find work. To get by, her family has lived off her husband’s disability checks. They’re thankful they have an understanding landlord, one who worked with them even after they fell behind on their rent by two months, Scharlau said.
Other job seekers stopped to pick up applications because they say Trader Joe’s has a good reputation.
“It’s very exciting to have a new company coming to town, and I expect a ton of people to apply,” said Katie Wages, 22.
Wages, who works in Lakewood, said she wants to be closer to her Olympia home so she can cut down on her commuting costs. Although Wages has a job in retail, her boyfriend has been looking for work since April, she said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403