County unemployment rate jumps from 5.5 percent to 6.1 percent

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Walla Walla County's unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent in November capped by the loss of about 140 manufacturing and construction jobs, labor officials said.

The jobless rate jumped from 5.5 percent in October and 5.1 percent a year ago. That figure is down from Washington's overall rate of 9.2 percent, announced in December by the Employment Security Department.

Walla Walla's unemployment is also growing at a slower pace than the state, which is 2.9 percent higher than a year ago. U.S. unemployment was 9.4 percent last month, also 2.9 percent higher than a year ago.

Regional economist Arum Kone said nonfarm employment has continued to drop in Walla Walla County, though not as quickly as the rest of the state and nation. In addition to construction and manufacturing jobs, the service sector saw a decrease of about 20 jobs.

Kone said that sector comprises about 80 percent of the area's total nonfarm employment and has been showing slight declines since August. However, professional and business services have added about 60 jobs, while health care and social assistance grew by 40 jobs.

Kone said along with the unemployment rate itself, the amount of time people are spending unemployed has grown.

Initial claims increased to 397 individuals in November from 318 in November 2008. That's a nearly 25-percent jump, he said. Continued claims rose to 790, a 98 percent increase from last year, he said.

Kone said exhausted claims for unemployment insurance were 58 for November compared to 16 for 2008. Exhausted claims occur when unemployed workers' 26-week unemployment insurance allowances have been used up.

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