County jobless rate holds steady

The 8.4 percent unemployment rate was an improvement on last February and lower than the statewide rate.


WALLA WALLA -- February's unemployment rate for Walla Walla County was a repeat of January, despite a few changes in the labor picture.

The unemployment rate held last month at 8.4 percent, according to figures released this morning by the state Employment Security Department.

February's jobless rate was down from a year before when it was posted at 9.1 percent. The statewide rate for February was 9.1 percent.

Regional labor economist Arum Kone said about 2,500 people in the county were unemployed in February, though only 786 of those were actually receiving unemployment insurance benefits. The estimate of unemployed is based on household surveys.

Kone said Walla Walla County lost 130 jobs from February 2011, but gained about 80 between January and February. Most of the loss has come from the government sector, he said.

He said weaknesses have emerged in private educational services and professional and business services since the start of the year. Manufacturing and construction were up slightly.

One anomaly appears to be in leisure and hospitality. Kone said statistics are showing a loss of about 100 jobs in that sector between January and February, but that could be more reflective of the way businesses are reporting rather than the actual climate.

"That's a little bit contrary to what we know on the retail spending side," he said. "A lot of restaurants have opened."

Neighboring Columbia County posted a 12.3 percent unemployment rate for February, while Garfield County had an 8.2 percent rate last month.

Whitman County had the lowest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent. But Walla Walla was among the lowest.

"Overall the numbers are very close to (January's)," Kone said. "Not really so overtly positive that it's great news, but not necessarily bad news."

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at or 526-8321.


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