Clark County job market remains stagnant in July

Revised unemployment rate expected to be about 13 percent

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

Published:

Updated: August 23, 2011, 5:04 PM

 

Clark County’s labor market remained flatlined in July.

Employers shed a net 100 jobs compared to July 2010, resulting in what will likely be an unemployment rate of around 13 percent.

“Since it bottomed out in early 2010, nonfarm employment has made no upward progress,” reported Scott Bailey, regional economist with the state Employment Security Department.

But a return to the 5 percent unemployment rate seen from 2005 through 2007 is many years off. It would take five years to get there if the county added 5,300 jobs per year, according to an analysis by Bailey. There are no signs that such rapid growth is on the horizon.

Compared to a year ago, local government agencies have shed 300 jobs. Unlike in June, when the private sector showed signs of resurgence, many in the for-profit world lost work in July. Hotels and food service employers cut 400 positions in the past year, manufacturers eliminated 200, and construction employers cut 500. Health care employers helped stem the losses by hiring 500 people, while professional, scientific and technical services employers added 300 workers.

Though the county’s not adding jobs, the unemployment rate is lower than it was during the depths of the recession. It was 14.1 percent in July 2009, and peaked at 15.7 percent in January 2010, according to state data.

The rest of the Pacific Northwest and much of the country have experienced similar job market challenges.

According to Bailey:

• Washington job growth over the fourth quarter of the year, initially estimated at 19,500, was revised down to 8,200.

• Over the past five months, Oregon has added only 400 jobs.

• Portland gained only 800 jobs in June — far less than the 2,900 initially estimated — and lost 500 in July.

• The national unemployment rate was down to 9.1 percent in July, but that’s only a slight improvement from 9.5 percent in July 2010.

From June to July, Clark County lost even more jobs — 1,700 — but that month-to-month change was largely because of temporary seasonal trends, as non-tenured school district employees were laid off for the summer. Because of such seasonal factors, year-over-year comparisons give a better overall view of broad shifts in the local labor market.

Clark County’s initial July jobless rate was officially 10.1 percent, but that early figure does not include unemployed Clark County residents who previously worked in Oregon. Revisions have typically caused the initial number to go up by about three percentage points. June’s unemployment rate was initially reported as 9.9 percent, and on Tuesday was revised up to 12.3 percent.