Jobless picture improves statewide

The jobless rate fell sharply in June across Washington and in the Tri-Cities as local economies partly reopened under the Safe Start program, according to figures released July 21 by the Washington Employment Security Department.

In the Tri-Cities, unemployment fell to 9.1%, down three full points from the 12.3% rate posted in May and four points off the peak of 13.5%. Unemployment in the Tri-Cities hovered around 5% in June of the three prior years, before the Covid-19 crisis led to widespread business closures and layoffs.

Benton and Franklin counties entered a modified version of Phase 1 in early July. Phase 1 is the most restrictive phase of the reopening following the March Stay Home, Stay Health order to curtail the spread of coronavirus, which causes the deadly Covid-19.

State figures indicate jobs in leisure and hospitality, the hardest hit industry, remain depressed. There were 11,500 people working in the industry in June, 1,100 fewer than a year ago. The professional and business services job sector was off by 900 positions, education and health services by 1,200, and trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities by 1,600.

The statewide unemployment rate for June was 9.7%, down from 14.8% in May and 16.1% in April. The state unemployment rate was around 4.3% in the three prior Junes.

Washington’s civilian labor force of nearly 4 million people included 384,109 people actively seeking employment in June.

Unemployment ranged from a high of 12.4% in Ferry and Grays Harbor counties to a low of 6.1% in Whitman County. Unemployment was 9.2% in King County, 11.5% in Pierce County, 9.8% in Snohomish County, 10.5% in Whatcom County, 10.1% in Yakima County, 10.2% in Clark County and 9.9% in Spokane County.

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