Post-harvest labor market struggles

— While the state is boasting its lowest unemployment in five years, local labor markets continue their yearly post-harvest struggle.

December unemployment figures by county were not available before press time, but Okanogan County recorded 8.9 percent unemployment in November, one-tenth of 1 percent lower than the previous year.

Ferry County unemployment was 11 percent in November, up one-tenth of 1 percent. The county had the second-highest rate in the state.

Although the statewide drop has been attributed to discouraged job seekers who have stopped looking for work, state labor economist Paul Turek said the labor market appeared stronger last month than the previous two months.

“We’re not heading southward, we’re heading northward,” he said. “It was a baby step in the right direction.”

State unemployment last month was 6.6 percent, down from 6.8 percent in November. It is at the lowest point since 6.5 percent recorded in November 2008.

According to the state Employment Security Department, unemployment is down overall because of a “significant drop” in December’s seasonally adjusted rate, along with the addition of about 4,800 jobs.

Industries that saw an increase in new job openings included professional and business services, private education and health services, wholesale trade, construction, hospitality, and a “catch-all category including auto body shops and nail salons.”

About 100 jobs were added in the mining and logging industry across the state.

On the other end of the spectrum, a total 2,900 jobs were lost in government and manufacturing.

“All of the lost government jobs were state agencies and public colleges,” the state report said. “In manufacturing, job losses were predominantly in food processing.”

The retail industry has also seen a decline in jobs, along with the financial activities and transportation, warehousing and utilities sectors.

Over the past year, the state reports about 41,800 jobs have been added.

“Since the low point of the recession, when 205,000 jobs were lost, 170,600 have been added,” the report said.


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