Jobless figures hold steady in Walla Walla

The area has seen a slight loss in jobs over the past year, a state economist says.

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WALLA WALLA -- Unemployment numbers continued on a stable path last month, according to the latest figures released by the state.

Walla Walla County's May unemployment rate held at 7.2 percent, matching the April rate in a typical transition between the two spring months, said regional labor economist Arum Kone.

He said the latest figures do not yet reflect the end of the school year or other seasonal factors. Those changes will likely show up in the June numbers, he said.

Overall Walla Walla is down about 110 jobs from last year. That figure is a .4 percent decrease, which Kone typified as "very little change for an economy of this size." One area for the decrease is in the federal government sector, but where exactly that might be coming from was not exactly clear, he said. Job losses have tended to move throughout the Walla Walla Valley as more of a trickle than a watershed movement, he said.

Walla Walla has made strides in wholesale and retail trade and professional business services.

Kone said the community has weathered the recession much better than many others across the country and even in the state. However, job growth moves much more slowly here.

"We're just not really close to adding the number of jobs we need to get back," he said.

Walla Walla's rate was lower than the state rate of 8.8 percent. That figure was down from 9 percent in April and 9.4 percent for the same period a year ago.

May's unemployment was 11.1 percent in Columbia County and 6.3 percent in Garfield County.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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