Whitman County Unemployment: How living in different counties can affect state unemployment rate

Decreasing demand in agricultural work leads to higher unemployment

Washington+also+saw+12%2C200+new+jobs+in+November+with+10%2C100+jobs+in+the+Service+Providing+category%2C+according+to+the+November+report.+The+state+lost+2%2C200+jobs+in+the+Retail+Trade+category.
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Whitman County Unemployment: How living in different counties can affect state unemployment rate

Washington also saw 12,200 new jobs in November with 10,100 jobs in the Service Providing category, according to the November report. The state lost 2,200 jobs in the Retail Trade category.

Washington also saw 12,200 new jobs in November with 10,100 jobs in the Service Providing category, according to the November report. The state lost 2,200 jobs in the Retail Trade category.

LUKE HUDSON | DAILY EVERGREEN ILLUSTRATION

Washington also saw 12,200 new jobs in November with 10,100 jobs in the Service Providing category, according to the November report. The state lost 2,200 jobs in the Retail Trade category.

LUKE HUDSON | DAILY EVERGREEN ILLUSTRATION

LUKE HUDSON | DAILY EVERGREEN ILLUSTRATION

Washington also saw 12,200 new jobs in November with 10,100 jobs in the Service Providing category, according to the November report. The state lost 2,200 jobs in the Retail Trade category.

LUKE HUDSON, Evergreen reporter

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About 4.1 percent of Whitman County residents are unemployed as of Dec. 27, according to the Employment Security Department’s monthly unemployment report. That amounts to 1,028 residents.

Whitman County Commissioner Michael Largent said both unemployment and the jobs in the county tend to be stable. This is mostly due to the number of agricultural jobs in the county largely remaining the same.

“People coming in and out of the [agricultural] business is just not as fluid as you would see in the more consumer economy,” Largent said.

The agriculture industry tends to require a larger investment in comparison to other sectors, he said. This results in a kind of market “inertia” where fewer people go into it but those already there tend to remain, he said.

Across the state, about 4.4 percent of people are unemployed, according to the November report. Previous reports show a stable trend in state-wide unemployment from 4.5 percent in January 2019 to 4.7 percent in April 2019. This was the highest it reached last year.

Whitman County has 25,208 people in the civilian labor force which is 76,632 fewer people than the average of 101,840, according to the report.

King County leads the state in civilian labor force with 1,304,360 people who are able to work which is 12.8 times the state average, according to the report. The county also has the lowest unemployment rate at 2.3 percent which is half the county average of 5.6 percent.

Largent said the state economy is based mainly on consumer goods and technology which can fluctuate more with changes to the general economy. This is one benefit to an agricultural-based economy that depends more on international trade than how well the state economy is doing.

LUKE HUDSON | DAILY EVERGREEN ILLUSTRATION

Washington also saw 12,200 new jobs in November with 10,100 jobs in the Service Providing category, according to the November report. The state lost 2,200 jobs in the Retail Trade category.

Sarah McKnight, Southeastern Washington Economic Development Association managing director for Whitman County, said county unemployment mostly affects the restaurant industry.

“The brick and mortar locations that people are opening, you know they can’t always hire people right off the bat because it’s just the owners trying to get started,” she said.

Largent said the county government is responsible for creating infrastructure to support economic growth but is not directly responsible for reducing unemployment.

“You’ve got to do the basic things necessary to encourage economic investment which drives down unemployment,” he said.

One example is wireless internet connection which is going to be a focus in Olympia this year as well as with the Port of Whitman County, Largent said.

Investing in roads also encourages economic development, he said. For Whitman County, having high quality, farm-to-market roads helps agricultural trade.

One of the primary objectives for the investment of county funds is ensuring a high rate of return, which means investments should make money, according to the Whitman County Treasurer’s Investment Policy.

The next monthly report is scheduled to be released on Jan. 28. Washington State and Seattle Metropolitan numbers are scheduled for release on Jan. 22.