Walla Walla unemployment rate looks to be in recovery

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Walla Walla's unemployment rate may be on the long road to recovery, according to the latest figures from the state Employment Security Department.

The unemployment rate dropped to 6 percent in October from the previous month's rate of 6.4 percent, and the number of initial unemployment claims dropped over the year, officials say.

Though the county continues to have one of the lowest jobless rates in the state, job growth is not moving near is rapidly as in other counties, said regional labor economist Arum Kone.

"It's probably going to be a long, slow, painful recovery," Kone said.

The state overall rode a five-month streak of private-sector job growth in October to hold its 9.1 percent revised unemployment rate from the previous month.

That rate nearly matched the 9.5 percent from the same period a year ago.

For Washington as a whole growth in service work outperformed goods-producing jobs during the month, according to the employment report.

The strongest private sector growth was seen in professional and business services, which added about 1,500 jobs.

Overall, the largest reported gains in October were about 4,000 jobs in government work, nearly all of them in education.

There were big losses for that category in September's report, but the agency said the statistical swings are tied to seasonal adjustments in the education work force.

The education work force in Walla Walla held up as well, despite expectations that there would be cuts in educational services, Kone said.

With cuts slated to city staffing before the end of the year, Kone said growth in the government sector will likely be weak in the next couple of years.

The slow pace of job growth is fairly typical for the community, he said, and is further reflected through the numbers of people receiving unemployment insurance.

While the number of new unemployment claims has decreased over the last year, he said the number of people receiving insurance as not dropped.

"That does show that there are a lot less people being laid off, but it's taking them a lot longer to get back into the work force," Kone said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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