Employment picture returning to normal in county

Island County unemployment is slowing returning closer to normal as pandemic restrictions ease.

The employment picture in Island County is normalizing as pandemic restrictions slowly recede, according to a regional labor economist with the Employment Security Department.

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, the economist for the area that includes Island County, noted that the latest numbers show an increase in the unemployment rate, but she explained that follows the usual seasonal pattern.

“This is actually looking very normal,” she said.

The rate for February in the county was 6.5 percent, up from 6.2 percent the prior month.

In 2019, the rate increased from 5.9 to 6.1 in the same months.

Vance-Sherman said the unemployment rate for small counties like Island County tends to bounce around because of the limited sample size.

Neighboring Skagit County’s rate was 7.7 percent and Snohomish was 5.3 percent this February.

The size of the labor force, however, has been affected by the pandemic.

Vance-Sherman said the latest numbers show that the number of people employed in the county decreased by 1,700 compared to the same time last year, which is a 4.7 percent decrease.

She suggested that some people have been forced to leave the labor force because of childcare complications, concerns about COVID-19 safety and other related reasons.

The number of jobs in the county dropped by 640 jobs, which is a 3.7 percent decrease, from February 2020 to February 2021.

Statewide, job loss was 6.1 percent.

Vance-Sherman said the presence of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island has a stabilizing effect on the job market in the county, although the employment statistics from the state do not directly take military jobs into account.

Year over year, the deepest job losses were in government, education, leisure and hospitality and health services.

Construction jobs were up by 30 jobs over the year while retail, and professional services were holding steady,Vance-Sherman said.

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