Unemployment rates remain low in Pierce, Thurston counties in July

The South Sound economy is producing the kind of reduced unemployment rates not seen in some time, with jobless rates for Pierce and Thurston counties remaining below 6 percent in July, according to state Employment Security Department data released Tuesday.

Beyond the face value of that number is a different story.

Pierce County’s unemployment rate was essentially unchanged, inching up to 5.9 percent in July from a revised 5.8 percent rate in June, the data show.

More compelling was that the county added 400 jobs — construction was the big gainer — in the June to July period, compared with shedding 600 jobs in the same period in 2013, while job growth was flat for the same period in 2012, said Jim Vleming, a regional economist with the state Employment Security Department.

In the year ending in July, the county added 7,100 jobs, he said.

Those job gains in the county have helped lower the unemployment rate to under 6 percent from 7.8 percent in July 2013.

Meanwhile, Thurston County, too, saw its jobless rate inch higher, bumping up to 5.3 percent in July from a revised 5.1 percent rate in June, the data show.

That uptick likely is because of the seasonal change in education as the county shed 1,200 jobs, mostly in education, in the June to July period, Vleming said.

Pierce County shed education jobs, too, but those losses were offset by a larger private sector economy, he said.

But Thurston County shed fewer jobs than the 2,100 jobs it lost in the same June to July period in 2013. In 2012, the county shed only 400 jobs, Vleming said.

A year ago, Thurston’s jobless rate was 6.9 percent. In the past year, Thurston added 1,400 jobs.