Whidbey employment numbers fail to show much improvement

Even while unemployment numbers are falling state and country wide, Whidbey Island residents continue their struggle to find jobs and keep them.

There are a couple of reasons for this, according to Christina LeClaire, an employment specialist with the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

LeClaire said while new jobs are created, most are lower paying, making it difficult for skilled or higher-level employees to find and keep work.

“It has more to do with the job market right now,” LeClaire said. “A lot of people are taking jobs that are below them.”

LeClaire said that when people take jobs for which they are over-qualified, they are unhappy and are likely to quit, leading to a lower job retention rate.

In addition, islanders face the added geographic challenge of finding work on the island.

“It is far more difficult on the island (to find work),” she said. “We just don’t have the industries.”

“Everyone is saying that the job market is up but I have a hard time seeing it until I see a full one-year cycle,” LeClaire said.

Annaliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor specialist with the state Employment Security Department, agreed that Island County’s labor market has been in a holding pattern since falling into the recession.

However, she said, “there have been some signs of a growing or at least stabilizing economy.”

Since last year, Island County saw an increase in manufacturing jobs, but a loss in information and financial services jobs, and retail trade jobs.

Unemployment rate for Island County fell to 7.4 percent in April. But this time last year, the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent. The unemployment rate has been falling slowly, but steadily, since reaching a peak level of 10.9 percent in February 2010, Vance-Sherman said.

“There are a number of challenges in the current job market,” Vance Sherman said. “The slow recovery has been reflected in longer periods of unemployment and a weakening labor market, as workers take themselves out of the competitive market, and employers are being cautious and cost conscious in their hiring decisions.”

Still, LeClaire said there are some things Islanders can do to increase their chances of finding a job appropriate to their skill set. First, make sure their resume is catered to the job being applied for and make sure skills are highlighted. Second, prepare for each telephone and in-person interview, making sure to sound and appear professional. Third, because there are fewer applicants to more complex positions, don’t be intimidated by job listings that are detailed and specific, she said.

Lastly, if you do find yourself in a job that you are overqualified for, try to make the best of it, she said. This can include personalizing your space, making sure you are on time, ready to work and be team player.


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