Grays Harbor County still hardest hit with unemployment

The preliminary unemployment rate for Grays Harbor County in December topped the state again, at 11.6 percent or more than five percentage points higher than the state’s average of 6.5 percent.

All figures reported are not seasonally adjusted and can fluctuate, as the preliminary numbers can do when revised later.

“Keep in mind … they tend to bounce around a lot,” cautioned Sheryl Hutchinson, communications director of the state Employment Security Department.

Pacific County’s preliminary unemployment rate hit 10.5 percent in the last month of 2013. Pacific County numbers dipped below double digits twice last year.

“The beat goes on, not a good place to be. Been in double digits for awhile,” said regional economist Jim Vleming. “During the winter, it’s never a good time to bump up the jobs. Looks like we will be stuck with this for another couple of months at least. The spring thaw will help, hopefully.”

Some good news could be found in revised non-seasonally adjusted numbers for November in both counties, two of the hardest hit by the recession in the state.

Grays Harbor County’s figure for November of 11.3 percent was revised downward to 10.8 percent and Pacific County’s from 10.4 to 10 percent.

“We were overly pessimistic (in preliminary numbers), we will see what happens,” Vleming said, cautioning that Grays Harbor will probably “still be number one after revision.”

Grays Harbor county is better off than a year ago with 11.6 percent being lower than than 12.3 percent recorded in December in of 2012, he said.

Worrisome, too, are the numbers that show a loss of 1,200 people in the labor force for Grays Harbor, from December 2012 to December 2013, which means workers have either moved, retired or quit looking, Vleming said.

Grays Harbor County’s unemployment rate has hit double digits since the summer of 2008, one of the longest streaks among rural counties in the state on record, said Vleming.

The unemployment rate is going down slowly on the Twin Harbors, so “we keep watching and hope,” he said.

He and Hutchinson did not know whether long term unemployment benefits for hardest hit states and counties nationwide would be extended again by Congress.

“Wait and see, wait and see. It’s like a tennis match,” Vleming said.


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