Clark County’s jobless rate up slightly to 13.1 percent

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

Updated: December 14, 2010, 5:28 PM

 

Clark County’s jobless rate climbed slightly in November to 13.1 percent as several private sector industries experienced losses and as holiday hiring ended up being lukewarm, the state Employment Security Department said Tuesday.

Construction lost 200 jobs, while manufacturing shed 300 jobs compared to October. Primary and secondary schools added 300 jobs, wrapping up fall hiring.

The county’s jobless rate was 12.3 percent in October — though it was earlier reported at 13 percent before the state revised its figures. It was 13.3 percent in November 2009.

Total employment of 127,400 in November was down 1,300 jobs from the same period a year ago. The county has lost 9,100 jobs since the economic recession began. Its jobless rate is the highest in Washington state. By comparison, Cowlitz County’s jobless rate was 11.9 percent in November. In Skamania County, it was 12.1 percent. King County, home to Seattle, posted a jobless rate of 8.7 percent.

A lack of consumer demand is preventing private companies from hiring and is keeping Clark County’s unemployment in the double-digits, said Scott Bailey, Southwest Washington regional economist for the Employment Security Department. The “high level of debt and the loss of income” are the two factors keeping many consumers on the sidelines, Bailey said.

Heading into 2011, he added, “I hope for great improvement, but I think we’ll get modest improvement.”

Most sectors trending flat

Out of 15 major employment sectors in Clark County “most are trending flat, and two” — construction and business services — “are declining,” Bailey said.

Clark County’s retail sector, which typically sees a solid bump around the holidays, didn’t do as well as usual. Retail trade is up 500 jobs since September, but many of those jobs were a result of the opening of a new Costco in east Vancouver. Normally, Bailey said, “you’d expect to see something around 500 without a (new) Costco.”

Despite governments facing steep budget cuts, state and local government payrolls in Clark County grew by 400 jobs. That primarily reflects the fact that Washington State University Vancouver “has been on an expansion path,” Bailey said, while “you’ve got record enrollment at Clark College” as the down economy prompts people to seek job training or other careers.

Washington state’s jobless rate in November held steady at 9.2 percent. Job growth remained largely flat, with a statewide net gain of only 100 jobs. So far this year, Washington has added 10,300 private-sector jobs. Factoring in a substantial loss of government jobs, there has been an estimated net gain of 6,200 jobs during the first 11 months of the year.

In Clark County, an estimated 28,960 residents were jobless and looking for work in November — 200 fewer than a year ago, when the unemployment rate was 13.3 percent.