There were 1,100 fewer people working in Benton and Franklin counties in November than the month before as seasonal changes trimmed nonfarm jobs in manufacturing, construction and waste cleanup.
Nonfarm employment in the Tri-Cities still was up 4.9 percent over a year ago to 101,600 jobs, however. That was 4,700 jobs more than a year ago.
"We're doing better than last year. We're still leading the state and most of the nation," said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist for Benton and Franklin counties.
But Suljic said the Tri-City unemployment rate climbed to 6.9 percent from 6 percent in October, with 9,400 workers without jobs. That was the largest number of unemployed since May, she said.
Farm jobs declined 36 percent to 8,751. Suljic said the decrease reflected the end of grape harvest and the arrival of cold weather.
Even with the seasonal drop, Suljic said farm employment was basically flat compared with November 2009. Farm jobs should remain about the same through the winter, she said.
"Future work in agriculture will revolve around pruning and soil cultivation through the end of the spring," she said.
While total nonfarm jobs dropped in November in the Tri-Cities, retail jobs were up about 300 from October. That was about average as employers geared up for the holidays, Suljic said, with an increase of 100 retail jobs over a year ago.
"Employers are probably still hiring, but not necessarily at higher numbers," she said.
"By the end of December this will drop dramatically as temporary workers are laid off. These are people who work just a few hours a day or week to help with customer flow."
Overall hiring in the Tri-Cities was weak, Suljic said in a statement, adding, "This was one of the weakest Novembers on the record since 1996."
Statewide, the Employment Security Department said there was little change in employment in November from October.
The statewide jobless rate remained steady at 9.2 percent and job numbers remained stable, with a modest gain of about 100 jobs statewide over the month, Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause said Tuesday.
Nationally, the November unemployment rate was 9.8 percent.
"Job growth is in a holding pattern," Trause said. "It underscores why unemployed workers are having a hard time finding jobs and why we need to extend federal emergency unemployment benefits a while longer."
The state said more than 322,000 people in Washington were unemployed and looking for work last month, while about 240,000 received unemployment benefits.
The unemployment rate in Walla Walla County was 6.6 percent, in Yakima County 9.1 percent, Grant County 10.2 percent, and Adams County 10 percent.
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