A consistent decrease in the unemployment rate suggests that Island County has emerged from the Great Recession with a steadily growing economy, according to an economist with the state Employment Security Department.
“It took a while because this particular recession was so long and so deep,” said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, regional labor economist.
In a report released this week, the Employment Security Department states that the preliminary unemployment rate for December, not seasonally adjusted, was 5.5 percent. The preliminary average for 2017 was 5.1 percent.
In comparison, Skagit’s rate for December was 5.8 percent, Whatcom’s rate was 5 percent and Snohomish’s rate was 4 percent. King County’s rate was lowest in the state at 3.6 percent.
Island County’s unemployment rate for December was up from 4.7 percent in November, but Vance-Sherman said that’s to be expected for the time of year.
She said the rate will probably be even higher for January.
Anecdotally, the South Whidbey economy seems to be doing well. Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber, said “the general economy in Langley is very good, with sales up seemingly across the our membership.”
Broadly speaking, Vance-Sherman said, the recession ran from 2008 to 2010. She said there was a strong rural-urban divide in the recovery, with rural regions taking longer to emerge from the recession.
“The smaller the county, the longer it lagged behind, relative to the Seattle area,” she said.
The unemployment rate peaked in Island County at a yearly average of 9.3 percent in 2010 and slowly but steadily decreased in the ensuing years. In terms of jobs, the county just returned to pre-recession numbers, Vance-Sherman said.
According to Vance-Sherman, the recovery is very broad-based and has “some substance to it.” The highest level of job growth occurred in the “professional business services” and “leisure / hospitality” sectors.
In 2017, the labor force in the county increased by 848 people, or 2.5 percent. The number of jobs increased by 560, which is a 3.4 percent increase.
“That’s good. That’s very good,” she said, noting that the state average hovers around 3 percent.