Trouble lurks in jobless rate drop

While the rate is among the state's lowest, the area has stopped gaining jobs.

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Walla Walla County's unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in July remained one of the lowest in the state, down from a revised rate of 6.3 percent the previous month.

Statewide, the rate dropped to 9.1 percent from June's revised rate of 9.2 percent.

The state also gained 4,000 non-agriculture jobs in July. State officials say that the last time the state saw jobs gained was in November 2008.

But job gains locally over the last year have become "very soft or now negative," and loss of employment over the last quarter is more pronounced than previously estimated, according to Regional Labor Economist Arum Kone. Therefore, he expects Walla Walla County's unemployment numbers to begin moving up.

"Nonfarm employment decreased -1.8 percent over the year in July and a downward revised -.6 percent in June," Kone wrote in a news release.

Total employment declined .28 percent, or 680 jobs, in July.

"Much of this decline comes from education services and private educational services and is seasonal," Kone wrote. "Retail trade and wholesale trade also both declined slightly over the month."

Over the past year, 420 jobs have been lost, according to Kone, with large declines in construction, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality and state and local government sectors.

More than 315,850 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in July, according to the state Employment Security Department.

Initially, June's jobless rate was reported at 9.3 percent, but it was later revised down to 9.2 percent. Washington state's rate is lower than the national rate, which was 9.4 percent for July.

Oregon's unemployment rate was 11.9 percent, virtually unchanged from the revised figure of 12 percent for June.

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