Thurston jobless rate falls to 8.1 percent in April

The South Sound economy took a step forward in April as an uptick in job growth helped lower unemployment rates in Thurston County, according to jobless data released Tuesday by the Employment Security Department.

The county’s jobless rate fell to 8.1 percent last month from 8.7 percent in March, the data show.

Thurston County added 300 jobs last month, with the service industry gaining 200 jobs and construction industry 100 jobs, Thurston County regional economist Jim Vleming said.

Vleming said the county’s economy is starting to head in the right direction.

The outcome for the state budget could alter the jobs picture in Thurston County, although the private sector is trying to do its part by boosting its employment numbers, such as Recreational Equipment Inc., which created 50 jobs for its new store at Westfield Capital mall.

More South Sound job creation is under way.

Walmart, which is expected to open its Tumwater store in July, has opened a hiring center to hire 250 to 300 employees. Store manager Kari Dodson said the center has received an “incredible” response from applicants so far, including about 200 people who have applied to become cashiers, she said.

Liz Kiel, 59, of Tumwater, applied online and was called to the hiring center Tuesday. Kiel said she has worked in retail for 30 years but needs more hours than the 13 a week she receives from her current employer. She also needs health care benefits, she said.

“That’s a huge reason I want to be here,” Kiel said.

Jim Rothwell, 54, of Olympia, said he has been hired as a store greeter. Rothwell said that after a recent return to auto sales in which he acknowledged he didn’t do very well, he joined Walmart for the stability, benefits and the chance to be promoted.

“There’s a lot of opportunity, and I’m willing to start over,” he said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403