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Signs of recovery in local economy | Forecast 2013

By Elizabeth Court
Employment Security Department

Looking back over the months of 2012, Kitsap County noted some significant economic news relating to the labor market and employment. A quick look back reveals a recovering economy, appearing to benefit from a generally decreasing unemployment rate and some improvements in consumer expenditure levels.

Kitsap County is one of the smaller counties in Washington, geographically, with a land area of about 395 square miles. And while the rural areas of the county give it a bucolic feel, it actually ranks third in the state for population density — that is, the number of people per square mile.

Employment and Jobs
Kitsap County noted job growth from an estimated 81,300 jobs in January 2012 to 82,700 positions in November 2012. December county labor market numbers should be available on Jan 26. This gain represents 1,400 jobs added in aggregate, with significant growth in private sector positions.

Between the 12 months up to November 2012, approximately 200 jobs were added in manufacturing and another 200 in retail trade, and leisure and hospitality. Overall, public sector jobs — federal, state and local government jobs — were down by 100 positions. However, broken out by level, the number of state and local positions increased but were offset by losses at the federal level.

Unemployment
During the first 11 months of 2012, the not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in the county fell from a high of 8.1 percent in February to 6.5 percent in November, after hitting its lowest level for the year at 6.4 percent in October. While this decrease has not returned the county to the unemployment rates in the 4 and 5 percentages of 2006 and 2007, it does represent an improvement over the unemployment rates of over 9 percent in February and March 2010. Kitsap County has generally had unemployment rates lower than that of the state of Washington.

Unemployment Insurance
Another indicator of the economic recovery in the county over the first 11 months of 2012 was the decrease in new claims for regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. For Kitsap County, new claims for regular UI stood at 1,689 in January 2012 and had dropped to 1,282 by November. As a comparison, January 2009 had recorded 2,203 new claims for regular UI.

Commuting Patterns
Commuting pattern for 2012 data are not yet available; traditionally a fairly large percentage of Kitsap residents have commuted out of the county for employment. For the decade starting in 2000, close to 25 percent of the workforce residing in the county travelled to King, Snohomish, Pierce or other counties for work. The 2010 U.S. Census data estimated that close to 60 percent of individuals had a commute of less than 10 miles and approximately 27 percent of workers had commutes between 10 and 50 miles.

Data for this article are from the Employment Security Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census and may be subject to revision.

— Elizabeth Court is a regional economist for the state Employment Security Department. https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/

Forecasting 2013 series: Human needs, Poulsbo, local real estate.

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