Hiring slowdown hits Pierce, Thurston counties
Pierce County unemployment fell to 9.1 percent in June from a revised 9.2 percent unemployment rate in May, but the slight decline in the jobless rate was overshadowed by the county shedding jobs for the first time this year, a regional economist said Monday in regard to last week’s numbers.
The county lost 400 jobs in June – a 200-job gain in the private sector offset by 600 job losses in the public sector – after steadily adding jobs for most of the year, regional economist Paul Turek said.
Job growth had been on an encouraging upswing, the county adding 7,400 jobs through the first six months of the year, compared with just 5,000 during the same period in 2011, he said.
And then June arrived.
“It wasn’t a really bad month, but it also wasn’t a good month,” Turek said.
Another concern is that last month’s jobs losses – the county lost only 100 jobs in June 2011 – could be a sign that the economy is losing some momentum, he said. “It might be consistent with a slightly slowing economy.”
Thurston County, meanwhile, showed a similar trend last month, its jobless rate falling to 7.7 percent in June from 7.9 percent in May, regional economist Jim Vleming said.
Although the county didn’t show a net job loss, it also didn’t show a net job gain, which means hiring was flat in the May-to-June period, Vleming said.
Construction added 100 jobs, but that gain was offset by losses in other industry sectors, he said.
The creation of construction jobs used to drive the economy, just as it did throughout the country before the housing meltdown in fall 2008.
Statewide unemployment, which is seasonally adjusted (county numbers are not), was unchanged in June at 8.3 percent, even though the state added 10,200 jobs.
There’s a reason the jobless rate didn’t move, Employment Security spokeswoman Sheryl Hutchison said. “The real reason the unemployment rate didn’t budge is because more and more people are entering or re-entering the labor force,” she said. “When that happens, it increases the total size of the labor force. When the total grows, it takes a much larger change in the number of unemployed (up or down) to change the rate.”
Jobless by the numbers
Regional jobless rates for June, not seasonally adjusted
• King County (Seattle, Bellevue): 7.5 percent.
• Kitsap County: 7.5 percent.
• Thurston County: 7.7 percent.
• Pierce County: 9.1 percent.
• Mason County: 10.5 percent.
• Lewis County: 12.4 percent.
• Grays Harbor County: 13 percent.
Source: Employment Security Department