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Skagit County’s unemployment rate in January was 6.2%, roughly the same as in January 2019, the state Employment Security Department reported March 10.

The unemployment rate in neighboring counties: Island, 5%; San Juan, 4.8%; Snohomish, 3.1%; and Whatcom, 5.5%. The lowest unemployment rate in the state was in King County, 2.7%. The highest was in the northeast county of Ferry, 12.4%.

Comparatively, the state unemployment rate was 3.9%, the U.S. employment rate 3.6%.

This was, of course, before the COVID-19 virus prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to temporarily close bars and restaurants and restrict large gatherings. The effect of those precautions on employment are yet to be fully measured; the Employment Security Department reported earlier this week that unemployment insurance claims are just beginning to rise due to COVID-19 related layoffs.

But in the months before COVID-19, Skagit County’s employment picture was “in real good territory,” regional economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman said March 17.

Ten industry sectors showed job increases from January 2019 to January 2020, but the population grew too, Vance-Sherman said. In other words, there were more jobs, but also more people moving into the area in pursuit of those jobs. As a result, Skagit’s jobless numbers remained “in a holding pattern.”

According to her monthly report:

• Compared to January 2019, the number of people counted as “employed” increased by 2,622; the number of people counted as “unemployed” increased by 105.

• Skagit County’s resident labor force was estimated at 63,960, an increase of 4.5% over the year.

• The sectors with the biggest job gains were in Leisure and Hospitality, 8.2%; state government, 7.1%; and Trade, Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities, 6.1%.

• The sectors that lost jobs were Manufacturing, -6.6%; and Mining, Logging and Construction, -2.1%.

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