The unemployment rate in Thurston County rose in February, a sign that the South Sound economy is still feeling the hangover from post-holiday job cuts, a regional economist said Thursday.
State Employment Security Department data show that the jobless rate rose to 8.9 percent in the county from a revised 8.5 percent rate in January. Seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment stood at 9.1 percent, compared with the national rate of 8.9 percent in February.
Thurston County regional economist Jim Vleming expects the county’s unemployment rate to fall to 8 percent or less as the weather improves and business activity picks up. But the condition of the state budget remains a concern for the local economy, he said. Vleming called it the “bogeyman under the bed” after the state’s budget shortfall widened to $5.5 billion from $3.6 billion in the most recent revenue forecast.
Most of the county’s job gains were in government and education, which added 400 jobs, he said.
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South Sound employers are trying to do their part to add jobs. About 30 employers attended a job fair this week at Westfield Capital mall in Olympia, which attracted about 600 job seekers. Recreational Equipment Inc., or REI, expects to open its new store at the mall May 13, and Chipotle Mexican Grill is to open there in May. Ross Dress For Less opened its west-side store this month.
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