Clark County posts slight gain in jobs in June

Growth in private sector mostly offset by cuts to government

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

Updated: July 26, 2011, 4:56 PM

 

Clark County’s private sector is slowly adding jobs, but those scant gains are being offset by cuts in government employment.

Private employers hired in June, expanding their payrolls by 900 jobs from the same period a year ago, according to a report issued Tuesday by Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department.

But most of those gains were canceled out as government employers shed 800 jobs, compared to June 2010, leaving the county’s economy with an annual net gain of only 100 jobs.

The county’s private sector, while showing signs of life, remains weak, Bailey said. The 900 jobs private employers added in June represent less than 1 percent of the county’s total of 103,700 private-sector jobs.

“That’s not very strong,” Bailey said.

An estimated 20,680 county residents were unemployed and looking for work last month. Clark County’s initial unemployment rate for June was 9.9 percent. However, the jobless rate for June is expected to be revised upward when unemployment claims of county residents who worked in Oregon are factored in.

The same type of adjustment was made for Clark County’s May labor market results, with a preliminary jobless rate of 9.8 percent revised to 12.7 percent.

Tuesday’s report was further evidence of the county’s continuing struggle to dust itself off after the economic crash. The nose dive wiped out more than 10,000 Clark County jobs from early 2008 through earlier this year, or roughly 7 percent of the county’s non-farm job base.

The earliest and most realistic timeline for the county’s economy to recover is five years, according to an analysis by Bailey, and even then the odds aren’t good.

To recover by 2016 and drive down the unemployment rate to 5 percent, the county’s job growth would have to average 4 percent a year, or 5,300 jobs annually.

The county would have to create roughly 442 jobs per month to recover by 2016.

Seasonal patterns

In June, the county added 400 more jobs than in May, according to Bailey’s “Southwest Washington Labor Market News” report, but those gains reflected normal seasonal hiring patterns — not a fundamental uptick in job growth.

Industries that saw annual job growth in Clark County in June included professional and business services (up 700 jobs from June 2010), education and health services (up 400 jobs) and manufacturing (up 200 jobs).

By contrast, leisure and hospitality was down 200 jobs since June 2010, construction shed 200 jobs and the information sector cut 100 jobs. The county’s major trouble spot was its government sector, which shed a total of 800 jobs from June 2010.

For perspective, total county employment was an estimated 128,100 in June.

The number of initial unemployment claims filed by Clark County residents “continued to bounce up and down around the 2,200 level, well above the normal level of 1,500,” Bailey wrote in his June labor market report.

The number of people filing claims during their first six months of unemployment has been decreasing by 100 claims per month for more than a year, Bailey wrote. At that pace, however, it will take another 18 months “to reach a healthy level from the current 4,700 claims.”

Moreover, 4,639 county residents have been receiving unemployment benefits for more than six months. More than 3,369 residents have exhausted all jobless benefits. And an unknown number of county residents have filed for unemployment benefits under Oregon’s system or have exhausted benefits from that state.