Layoffs still hurting - Ferry County hit most, at 15.7% unemployment

By Mike Benbow
Everett Herald Writer

Washington State - The jobless rate rose slightly in Snohomish County in January following cutbacks at aerospace companies, retailers, contractors and elsewhere.

Unemployment rose from a revised 7 percent in December to 7.3 percent in January, the state Department of Employment Security reported Tuesday. Statewide, unemployment was 7.4 percent in real terms and 6.6 percent when adjusted for seasonal factors.

One such factor -- cutbacks at retailers following the Christmas holidays -- was a major factor in the increased rate in Snohomish County, according to Donna Thompson, an economist with the Employment Security Department.

"We saw a jump, but it was the kind of seasonal jump there is with the loss of retail (jobs) in January," Thompson said.

She noted that aerospace jobs continued to shrink, with layoffs at the Boeing Co. and related businesses. Jobs in the industry fell by 500 in January to a total of 24,300, she said.

Other cutbacks included some 200 by Spiegel, the parent company of Eddie Bauer, which operates a call center in Bothell, and another 35 by Plexis, also of Bothell.

"Those are the major layoffs," Thompson said.

She noted that despite the cutbacks, the economy is in better shape than last year at this time.

"All in all, we know we are continuing to have these kinds of layoffs, yet I think we're seeing more stability," she said. "It's certainly not like last year."

Last year, she noted, unemployment in Snohomish County was higher than the state average. Now we've dipped below that average and are staying there. "We were helping to push the state rate up before," she said.

Washington lost 55,700 jobs in January, a normal decline for that time of year. Just as in Snohomish County, the biggest losses were in retail trade, which shed 16,600 workers, and construction, which lost 7,400 jobs.

"The fall in the seasonal adjusted January unemployment rate reflects fewer than normal post-holiday layoffs due to slack seasonal retail hiring in November and December," Employment Security Commissioner Sylvia Mundy said.

However, employment was up 13,500 compared with January 2002. From January 2001 to January 2002, the state lost 64,600 jobs.

The state's highest unemployment was in Ferry County, which reported a 15.7 percent rate. The lowest was 2.8 percent in Whitman County. In Island County, the unemployment rate in January was 6.1 percent.


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