Walla Walla jobless rate falls again

The rate, far below the statewide figure, could rise, according to the regional labor economist.

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WALLA WALLA -- Falling leaves. Tumbling unemployment.

The jobless rate for Walla Walla County followed its typical autumn trend, dipping in September with apple harvest and the new school year under way.

Walla Walla's seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate decreased to 5.6 percent in September from 5.9 percent in August, according to figures released from the state Employment Security Department.

The number is 1.5 percentage points higher than a year ago, when unemployment was 4.1 percent, but much lower than the state's seasonally unadjusted rate of 8.8 percent. Adjusted for seasonal factors, Washington's unemployment rate for September was 9.3 percent, up from 9 percent in August.

Regional Labor Economist Arum Kone said Walla Walla's rate is likely to be affected as more layoffs occur and job gains are slow.

"Outside of new jobs being created in the economy, it is likely that Walla Walla could experience a similar increase in unemployment similar to that experienced in the state and nation," he said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

Kone said declines in nonfarm employment over the last year have largely come from manufacturing (140 jobs); construction (160 jobs); state and local government (190 jobs); and leisure and hospitality (160 jobs).

Kone said if these sectors don't add jobs, it's unclear where new jobs will come from.

"The pattern for Walla Walla is that new job creation occurs at a slow and steady average rate of 1.2 (percent) annually since 1991," he said. "Thus lost jobs take a while to be replaced with new jobs."

He said several sectors have shown gains, including health care and social assistance (90 jobs); retail (80 jobs); and federal government (110 jobs).

Between August and September 860 nonfarm jobs were added. Kone characterized that number as "typical" because of the area's educational institutions and harvest season.

Meanwhile, Washington state lost an estimated 16,000 non-agricultural jobs in September, seasonally adjusted, after an estimated loss of nearly 12,000 jobs in August.

K-12 schools were a significant portion of both the August job growth and the September job losses. Employment Security economists attribute the large swings to seasonal-adjustment calculations, which tend to smooth out normal, seasonal changes and amplify unexpected growth or losses.

Year over year, Washington had 131,200 fewer jobs last month than in September 2008, down 4.4 percent.

Nationally, employment declined by 4.2 percent over the past year.

Local rates

  • Columbia County's September unemployment rate: 8.4 percent
  • Garfield County: 5.4 percent

Figures are seasonally unadjusted.


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