Pierce County job gains wiped out in December

Staff writerJanuary 29, 2014 

The Pierce County economy ended 2013 on a less than spectacular note as the county unemployment rate bumped up to 7.5 percent in December from 7.2 percent in November, according to state Employment Security Department data released Tuesday.

More discouraging was the fact that the job gains the county experienced throughout last year were wiped out in December, Employment Security regional economist Jim Vleming said.

Over the previous year, the county added 1,800 jobs, a still slow job growth rate of 0.7 percent.

But come the end of the year, the county shed 1,900 jobs in the November to December period, with professional and business services leading the way with 800 jobs lost, followed by leisure and hospitality with 600 jobs lost.

One bright spot was that December's jobless rate was lower than the year-ago rate of 8.4 percent, the data show.

"We're headed in the right direction," Vleming said about the overall trend with jobless rates, "but it's still not (falling) at the pace people expect."

The state's Chief Economist Steve Lerch, who addressed the Washington Association of Realtors last week and who forecast more slow growth for the state this year, said the state is still 20,000 jobs below where it was before the recession.

The total size of the county's labor force also shrunk, similar to the trend that was noted in the seasonally-adjusted statewide jobless figure that was released last week.

Employment Security labor economist Paul Turek cautioned that the shrinking unemployment rate (statewide) was largely due to people who stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor force.

Regional jobless rates for December, not seasonally adjusted:

-King County (Seattle, Bellevue): 4.8 percent

-Kitsap County: 6.1 percent

-Thurston County: 6.7 percent

-Pierce County: 7.5 percent

-Mason County: 9 percent

-Lewis County: 10.7 percent

-Grays Harbor County: 11.6 percent

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403
rboone@theolympian.com

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