Valley jobless numbers down

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Walla Walla County's unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent in April, according to most recent results released May 22 by the state Employment Security Department.

The figure was down from an adjusted 8.2 percent in March and from a 7.5 percent rate during from April 2011.

The reduction from the first quarter of the year is typical for Walla Walla.

The county continued to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, which in April matched the nation's 8.1 percent jobless rate.

The low number has not necessarily reflected an increase in employment in the community. As more people exhaust their unemployment benefits, an increasing number of people have stopped looking for work, officials have said.

In other surrounding areas, Columbia County posted a 10.6 percent unemployment rate in April while Garfield County had a jobless rate of 7.9 percent.

Nationally, the number of people seeking unemployment benefits was flat in mid May, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported on May 23 that weekly applications for benefits dipped by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000.

Applications have leveled off this month after declining from April's five-month high of 392,000.

When applications drop below 375,000 a week, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. Economists forecast employers have added 160,000 jobs in May, above April's gains but below the pace set this winter.

The U.S. jobless rate has fallen from 9.1 percent in August to April's 8.1 percent.

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