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National joblessness rate reaches four-year high

It's safe to say that most people don't enjoy waking up early in the morning and going to work.

But even worse than leaving the comfort of a warm bed and driving to the office, for many, is not being able to punch the time clock. Without a job, bills stack up and credit cards rack up.

The nation's unemployment rate is at a four-year high. Both the number of jobless persons, 8.8 million, and the unemployment rate, 5.7 percent, rose in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Employment fell in construction, manufacturing and several service-providing industries. Health care and mining, however, continued to add jobs, the national release stated.

In July 2005, national unemployment was at 5 percent. Five years prior to that, in 2000, unemployment dipped to a 10-year low at 4 percent.

The Olympic Peninsula isn't immune to such activity. Unemployment in Clallam County rose from 5.5 percent in June 2007 to 7.6 percent in June 2008, according to information from the Economic Development Council. That's an increase of 590 unemployed persons in one year.

But Linda Rotmark, executive director of the EDC, said she isn't overly concerned about the statistical increase.

"It's a weird thing, unemployment is," Rotmark said. "It goes up and down."

"It's deceiving, really," she continued. "Yes, our unemployment rate might be up but we are always looking for that 25- to 44-year-old range in technological trades."

Jobs are available if people have or are willing to obtain proper training, she said.

Philippa Manley-Piper, Express Employment Professional business developer and recruiter, defines unemployment as the indication that there are more job seekers than jobs available. That isn't, however, necessarily the case in Clallam County, she said.

"Yes, there are quite a few unemployed people here, with businesses like K-Ply having to do layoffs," Manley-Piper said. "But there are still jobs available," she said optimistically. "They are just looking for people with specific skills."

Express Employment Professionals, formerly Express Personnel Services, is an agency located in Port Angeles that matches employers with employees. The company is searching for employees with accounting, Web programming, legal secretarial, Quick Books, housekeeping and truck driving experience to fill open positions countywide, Manley-Piper said.

K-Ply, a Port Angeles lumber mill, permanently laid off more than 130 employees earlier this year due to financial difficulties before closing March 3. An additional 59 employees were let go only months before the closure.

Interfor Pacific, Inc. another Port Angeles lumber mill, faced a two-week closure in February but was able to reopen as the market picked back up. Portac, Inc., a sawmill located farther west in Beaver, also closed for a two-week time period earlier in the year.

"There was a definite lull in construction," Manley-Piper said, "but the industry is going back up. Most everybody seems to be doing the same as they have in the past from what I've heard. I haven't seen a flood of people come from any company other than K-Ply."

Rotmark supports Manley-Piper's point of view concerning the construction industry and all the sectors it affects. "The word I hear in the timber industry is that they have cut back but their core is still there and strong," Rotmark said.

The most important thing to remember when faced with unemployment, for whatever reasons, Manley-Piper said, is that any job is better than no job. "Sometimes you might have to take a job that pays lower wages than what you were being paid before," she said realistically.

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