South Sound unemployment rates rose in January, a typical response for this time of year because of seasonal jobs cuts following the holiday hiring season, according to data released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department.
Thurston County’s unemployment rate rose to 8.7 percent in January from 7.7 percent in December, the ESD data show. Pierce County numbers followed a similar trend, rising to 10.4 percent in January from 9.1 percent in December.
Although the jobless rates increased to start the new year, the good news is that the January spike in South Sound unemployment was not as high as it was in January 2010, according to regional economists for both counties. In January 2010, Thurston County’s unemployment rate climbed above 9 percent, and Pierce County’s jobless rate rose to more than 11 percent, data show.
Regional economist Ajsa Suljic, said the lower-than-expected uptick in Thurston County’s jobless rate in January was an encouraging sign for the economy.
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“We might be reaching bottom,” she said. Suljic also expects Thurston’s jobless rate to decline as hiring picks up in the spring and summer, she said.
Based on the seasonal change in employment from December to January, Thurston County shed 1,900 jobs across all sectors and did not add jobs in the December-to-January period, Suljic said.
Seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment, meanwhile, added 11,000 jobs in the same period, which lowered the state’s jobless rate to 9.1 percent in January from 9.3 percent in December. County unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.
Although there was some encouraging signs in the January unemployment data, the job search continued for many Tuesday at the Thurston County WorkSource office in Tumwater.
Dana English, 26, of Olympia said she has been out of work for a year after her previous employer cut her working hours to five hours a week following the downturn in the economy. The challenge in finding a new job is constantly being told she either has too much experience or not enough, she said.
“I’ve even applied for fast food jobs and they tell me I have too much experience,” English said.
Her jobless benefits expired in October, but she’s qualified for another state program that pays her $400 a month. After looking for work at WorkSource on Tuesday, she was on her way to Westfield Capital mall to apply for a job.
Stephen August, 55, of Lacey was busy looking for work after moving to the area from Utah to be closer to his two daughters, he said. August has been out of work since February 2010 after losing his job with a retailer there.
August said he’s never been without a job this long and said he’s looking for something in customer service, marketing or sales that pays more than $9 per hour.
“It’s definitely an employers’ market,” August said.