Washington state job market improving but still iffy

The job market is showing some signs of getting better, but it's not even close to being healthy.

Last week the Washington State Employment Security Department released its Job Vacancy Survey Report, which looked at the number of openings in the fall of 2010. During that period, the survey estimates the Northwest region (Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan and Island counties) had 2,137 job vacancies, an increase of 48.6 percent compared to the fall of 2009. That left this area with a 1.7 vacancy rate, the same as the state rate.

While a big improvement year-over-year for those looking for work, it's still significantly less compared to the spring of 2008, when this region had 3,950 vacancies and a 3 percent vacancy rate. It's also not good when you consider that last month 20,840 people in this region were actively seeking work.

In this Northwest region, many vacancies were concentrated in part-time work. Last fall this region had 476 vacant cashier positions, with only 0.7 percent being full-time openings. Out of those vacant cashier positions, only 14.4 percent were permanent.

After cashier, the job positions with the most vacancies in this region last fall were retail salespeople (96 vacant positions), food cooks (66), landscaping (65) and orderlies (60). A registered nurse, typically a job in high demand, was way down on the list, with 28 vacant positions.

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