Thurston unemployment hits 7.5%

OLYMPIA - Two hundred new South Sound jobs last month weren't enough to prevent an increase in Thurston County's unemployment rate.

On Tuesday, the state Employment Security Department released jobless data showing that county unemployment increased to 7.5 percent last month from a revised 6.9 percent unemployment rate in October.

The South Sound economy shed jobs in professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, but added 500 seasonal holiday jobs and another 500 jobs in government and education for a net gain of 200 nonfarm jobs in the October-to-November period, regional economist Jim Vleming said.

The total number of people looking for work in the county increased to 10,040 last month from 9,160 in October, according to the ESD data.

Since January, the number of people in the county work force, employed or not, has fallen from 135,690 to 133,450 in November, the data show.

Although the county’s jobless rate increased last month, seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment fell to 9.2 percent in November from 9.3 percent in October, the data show. Nationwide unemployment was 10 percent in November, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, the Thurston County WorkSource office in Tumwater was busy with job seekers Tuesday.

Patrick Horsfall of Tenino, 30, who used to manage a wood flooring warehouse, said he has been looking for work for nearly three months. So far, there isn’t much out there, Horsfall said.

“I’ve got four kids so I can’t pick up a job at McDonald’s and call it good,” he said, adding that he earned $12.50 an hour at his last job.

Kenneth Kuhn of Olympia, 58, hasn’t had a job in 18 months, and the last time he had a job it was a temporary position with the state that lasted about four months, he said. Kuhn, who has a background in land-use planning, said there are few positions in his field and every time there is a job opening it attracts a lot of applicants. “Competition for each job is pretty intense,” he said.

Kuhn said he continues to receive unemployment benefits and lives frugally to make them last, he said. The longer he searches for work, the more discouraging it becomes, but having a regular daily routine helps and he said he tries to stay optimistic. Kuhn said his next step is to widen his job search and possibly move. “I miss contributing in the way you can when you have a job,” he said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

Compared with other counties

Jobless rates for November, not seasonally adjusted:

 • Thurston County: 7.5 percent

 • King County: 8.6 percent

 • Pierce County: 9.4 percent

 • Mason County: 10.5 percent

 • Grays Harbor County: 13.5 percent

 • Lewis County: 14.1 percent