Walla Walla County unemployment falls to three-year low

The rate, not seasonally adjusted, is below the rate posted in March 2011.

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WALLA WALLA — The number of unemployed people in Walla Walla County fell to a three year low in March, according to the latest figures released by the state Employment Security Department.

The county’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent last month, well below the 8.3 percent recorded in 2012 and the 8.6 percent posted in 2011. The rates were not seasonally adjusted, meaning the effects of regular or seasonal patterns have not been removed.

The preliminary figures show 2,370 people were unemployed in Walla Walla County out of a total civilian work force of 30,710 people. Statewide, there were 254,000 unemployed people out of a total resident work force of about 3.5 million people.

Walla Walla County’s unemployment rate was slightly higher than the preliminary statewide rate of 7.5 percent, according to the latest figures. Walla Walla and Kitsap counties shared the sixth-lowest unemployment rates in the state, just behind San Juan County’s 7.5 percent.

Columbia County’s unemployment rate was 11.3 percent and Garfield County’s rate was 8.2 percent, according to preliminary figures. Both rates were also not seasonally adjusted.

Nonfarm industry employment in Walla Walla County dipped slightly from last month, clocking in at 24,540 for March as opposed to 24,560 for February. That figure included 18,920 private sector jobs and 5,620 people employed in the government sector.

Washington’s preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March is 7.3 percent, down slightly from the estimated February unemployment rate of 7.5 percent. The March 2012 unemployment rate was 8.4 percent.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, preliminary estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate nonfarm employment in Washington fell by 5,500 from February 2013 to March 2013. The bureau estimates the private sector lost 900 jobs over the month and the public sector lost 4,600 jobs.

On a not-seasonally-adjusted basis, estimates for March 2012 to March 2013 indicate an increase in employment of 53,000 for the state. Over the year the private sector added 52,100 jobs while the public sector gained an estimated 900 jobs.

Overall, five industries in Washington state expanded in March, six contracted and two remained unchanged, according to the Employment Security Department.

Education and health services recorded the biggest gain, 1,800 jobs, followed by manufacturing, retail trade, construction and wholesale trade. The two industries which recorded no change were mining and logging and transportation, warehousing and utilities.

Industries which contracted were leisure and hospital, information, financial activities, professional and business services, government and “other services”, according to department figures. Government sector jobs took the biggest hit, losing 4,600 positions.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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