Hundreds of jobs were created in Thurston County last month, helping to reduce the unemployment rate to 7.5 percent from 8.7 percent in March, according to state Employment Security Department data released Tuesday.
A drop in the county’s jobless rate is another sign that the South Sound economy slowly is improving. Other economic indicators that show an improving trend this year include home sales, new construction and a falling number of foreclosure-related filings.
Office work, the retail sector and the leisure and hospitality industry generated 300 jobs last month, although hiring in the construction sector remained flat, said Jim Vleming, a regional economist for Employment Security. He expects hiring to increase in the sector as more construction projects get under way. The construction industry was hit hard by the recession last year, shedding more than 30,000 jobs statewide, according to Employment Security data.
“I’m hoping we get some bump in construction (employment) and get some bounce out of the summer months,” Vleming said. Those extra summer construction jobs could help to further lower the county’s jobless rate to 7 percent or possibly to the “high sixes,” he said.
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Seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment also fell in April to 9.2 percent from 9.5 percent in March as the state created 5,800 jobs. The U.S. jobless rate headed in the opposite direction last month, rising to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March.
Despite the positive news, hundreds of job seekers looked for work Tuesday at Westfield Capital mall, attending a job fair organized by the mall and Thurston County WorkSource, a partner to Employment Security. About 26 employers catered to about 300 people at the five-hour fair, said Cathy Shay, a business services liaison for WorkSource. Among the employers at the fair were The Boeing Co., outdoors equipment retailer Cabela’s and Lucky Eagle Casino.
Jennifer Gantenbein, 29, of Tumwater was looking for a part-time job, she said. She moved to the area in January from San Diego after spending 10 years in the Navy. She’s also a full-time student and was fairly upbeat about the economy, saying prospective employers are returning her calls.
“The jobs are out there, but you have to be willing to compromise,” she said. “If you’re not willing to compromise, it could be difficult.”
Jason Volkmann, 25, of Olympia, who also attended the job fair, said he ran a video game business until it closed last month. Since, he has sent out 20 to 30 job applications and arranged two interviews at the job fair, including one with a new manufacturer in Lacey. Volkmann recalled that when he still had his business, it would get about 400 job applications a month, he said.
Shawn Skinner, 32, of Olympia, who also was in the Navy, has been out of work for a year, he said. During the search for a new job, he has encountered three things: employers who don’t call back, being part of a pool of too many applicants, and being told he’s overqualified.
“I’m not going to quit,” Skinner said. “Eventually, something will be out there for me.”
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/bizblog