Jobless rate inches up in Walla Walla County, state

Walla Walla saw a slight uptick since January but a rate below the statewide figure.

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Washington state's unemployment rate for February increased slightly to 9.5 percent, and the state lost about 8,300 jobs, officials announced today.

The situation in Walla Walla County was a bit better, with the preliminary figures showing an 8.6 percent jobless rate. But that was 0.2 percentage points above January and 1.1 points above last February, when the rate was 7.5 percent.

In Columbia County, the rate ticked upward in February to 12.1 percent from 11.8 percent in January. Last February's rate was 12.8 percent. And in Garfield County, the rate was 10.7 percent, down from January's 11.1 percent but significantly up from last February, when the rate was 7.7 percent.

The dip in jobs statewide comes a month after the state saw its first job gains in more than a year in January, when the unemployment rate was 9.3 percent.

"We took a couple steps forward in January and one step back in February," Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee said in a prepared statement. "The path into the recession was steep but, as we're seeing, the climb back out will be more gradual."

More than 365,600 people were unemployed and looking for work last month, and more than 292,000 people received unemployment benefits.

Across the state line in Oregon, unemployment fell slightly in February, to 10.5 percent.

The national unemployment rate for February was 9.7 percent.

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