South Sound jobless rates spike following seasonal shift

The South Sound economy made its annual seasonal adjustment in January, shedding holiday employment that caused unemployment rates in Pierce and Thurston counties to spike at the beginning of the year, according to new jobless data released Tuesday.

But don’t be alarmed. This happens every year.

Pierce’s County’s jobless rate rose to 7.8 percent in January from 7.1 percent in December, the state Employment Security Department data show. And Thurston County did the same as the jobless rate rose to 7.3 percent from 6.6 percent in December, the data show.

But if you’re looking for a silver lining, Pierce County didn’t shed as many jobs this year as it did between December 2013 and January 2014, according to regional economist Jim Vleming.

The county shed 2,200 jobs in the December to January period — 1,500 of those jobs were in retail trade — compared with 4,500 jobs in the same period last year, he said.

That wasn’t the case in Thurston County, which shed 800 jobs in the period — 500 of those were in retail trade — compared to 500 a year ago, Vleming said.

Still, job growth in the past year wasn’t bad, particularly for construction, which may have benefited from the state’s mild winter weather, he said.

In the past year, Pierce County added 9,100 jobs, including 1,100 in construction; Thurston County added 4,100 jobs, including 800 in construction, Vleming said.

Seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment also was announced Tuesday. It rose to 6.4 percent in January from 6.3 percent in December. In the past year, the state has added 100,500 jobs: 89,800 in the private sector; 10,700 in the public sector.

The U.S. unemployment rate for January was 5.7 percent.

February jobless data for the state and counties also will be announced later this month.