A tight job market and rising back-to-school expenses are placing some Puget Sound area families in a frustrating double bind.

This fall is shaping up to be the most expensive year on record for back-to-school expenses, according to retailers. At the same time, unemployment rates in King and Snohomish counties are among the highest in three decades, rivaling the toughest months of the Great Recession.

June unemployment figures show rates topped 9% in King and Snohomish counties. That’s better than May’s grim double-digits but more than three times the rate from June 2019

At the same time, parents responding to the National Retail Federation’s annual national back-to-school spending survey expect to spend an average $789 per household on back-to-school necessities for K-12 students, including more than $130 on school supplies — more than any previously recorded year.

Actual costs vary by household, but for families already struggling to pay for basic expenses, the squeeze is all too real. That’s where Seattle Times readers come in.

For more than two decades, The Seattle Times editorial board’s annual school-supply drive has raised readers’ cash donations to help students in King and Snohomish counties. The need has arguably never been greater.

HOW TO HELP: The easiest way to donate is online. Checks may also be sent to: The Seattle Times School-Supply Drive, P.O. Box C-11025, Seattle, WA 98111. Email questions about donations to ffn@seattletimes.com.