Whatcom County’s unemployment rate rose in February, but it appears to have more to do with people re-entering the labor market rather than job loss.
Last month Whatcom’s unemployment rate was 8.5 percent, up from a revised rate of 8.1 percent in January, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department. Whatcom’s February rate is down significantly from a year ago, when it was at 9.5 percent.
While the unemployment rate increased between January and February, so did the number of people working locally. Last month 98,245 people were employed locally, up 189 compared to January and up 2,117 compared to February 2011.
The number of people actively seeking work locally also rose, from 8,694 in January to 9,110 in February.
Job growth in the past year has taken place in a variety of private sector industries. Manufacturing jobs continue to lead the way, employing 500 more people than a year ago, followed by retail (up 400 compared to a year ago) and construction (up 200). One sector not following that trend is leisure and hospitality, which had 600 less jobs than a year earlier.
The public sector continues to shrink year-over-year, according to the report. Last month in Whatcom County 16,600 people were employed in federal, state and local government positions, down 200 from a year earlier.
Whatcom’s unemployment rate remains lower than other nearby counties last month, including Skagit (10.7 percent), Island (9.3 percent) and Snohomish (8.9 percent). The county with the highest unemployment rate last month was Ferry (15.7 percent) while Whitman (6.6 percent) had the lowest.
Washington’s unemployment rate, not seasonably adjusted, was 9.1 percent last month, while the national rate was 8.7 percent. Counting discouraged workers, the unemployment rate nationally is estimated to be 15.3 percent.