Business

What's the job picture like in the San Juans? Here's what a state expert reports

March employment information for San Juan County. - Washington Employment Security Department
March employment information for San Juan County.
— image credit: Washington Employment Security Department

BY JOE GIANNAMORE

The Washington Employment Security Department has released the preliminary employment data for March and the data show that the unemployment rate for San Juan County rose during the month to 7.7 percent.

The March rate was three-tenths of a percentage points above the revised February rate of 7.4 percent.

Historically, the unemployment rate in the county starts to fall at this time of year, as firms in the county begin preparing for the summer tourism season. In fact, this is the first time the unemployment rate increased in March since at least 1990 (the first year for which comparable data exist).

The March increase demonstrates that not even the seasonal nature of the San Juan economy can protect the county from the effects of the national recession. The county’s rate was two full percentage points below the state rate, which came in at 9.7 percent in March.

The 7.7 percent March 2009 unemployment rate was three and nine-tenths percentage points above the March 2008 rate. This represents the largest year-over-year increase in the county unemployment rate since at least 1990 (the first year for which comparable data exist).

While the jobless rate rose during the past year, employers managed to add 170 San Juan County residents to their payrolls. The data show that 7,970 San Juan County residents were gainfully employed in March, while 660 were looking for work -- more than double the number looking for work a year ago at this time.

Non-farm employment in the county totaled 5,590 in March, up 120 over the February total and 80 over the total from last year at this time.

Over the month, services providing employment was up 90 jobs, while the goods-producing sectors added 30 jobs in March.

On the services side, the trade, transportation and utilities grouping added 30 paychecks in March. On the goods side, the construction grouping added 30 jobs to the economy in March.

Over the year, employment in the non-farm industries increased by 1.5 percent (statewide, over the year non-farm employment decreased by 3.3 percent). There was an increase of 20 jobs on the goods side and an increase of 60 jobs on the services side.

On the goods side, the construction grouping added 20 paychecks to the economy. On the services side, both the trade, transportation and utilities grouping and the government sector experienced an increase of 20 jobs since March 2008.

-- Joe Giannamore is a regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department.

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