Job growth remains weak in Clark County

March unemployments rate of 9.3 percent expected to be revised upward

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



Employers in Clark County added a net 700 jobs in the 12 months through March, leaving the county with a preliminary unemployment rate of 9.3 percent, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

However, that initial jobless rate for March is expected to be revised upward to roughly 11 percent to account for unemployed Clark County residents who previously worked in Oregon.

The county’s jobless rate in February was similarly revised from 8.8 percent to 10.9 percent. In March 2011, unemployment was 13.2 percent in Clark County.

In the county’s private sector, employers added 1,300 jobs between March 2011 and 2012, which was “nothing to write home about,” Scott Bailey, regional economist for the state Employment Security Department, wrote in his “Southwest Washington Labor Market News” report.

In the public sector, it was worse: Government continued to hemorrhage jobs, which offset the private sector gains. Public sector payrolls shed 600 positions, resulting in the county’s net gain of only 700 jobs year over year.

The numbers spell out a continuing pattern of weak job growth and high unemployment in Clark County, where the economy has remained feeble in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

As Bailey wrote: “The national labor market has been slowly improving, as has the state of Washington’s and Portland’s … Southwest Washington” — where Clark County harbors the bulk of the region’s population — “however, is another matter, with little to show for two years of ‘recovery.'”

Since the financial crisis of the late 2000s, the Clark County’s jobless rate has hovered in double digits, reaching a high of 15.9 percent in March 2010. The county’s jobless rate has dipped to a single digit just once since the end of 2008 — 9.3 percent in December 2011, according to state data.

By contrast, unemployment rates in Washington state and in the U.S. are 8.3 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively. Unemployment in Oregon is 8.6 percent. In the Portland metro area, it’s 7.9 percent.

In Clark County, the number of residents claiming jobless benefits in March underscored the region’s wobbly economic situation.

Initial claims filed by county residents in Washington’s unemployment insurance system “have trickled down over the past two years,” according to Bailey, “but at 2,100, were still well above the 1,600 to 1,700 level from 2005-2006.”

That means “there has continued to be a relatively high number of job losses generated in the local economy,” Bailey wrote.

Since July 2008, 4,239 Clark County residents have used up all of their unemployment benefits.

Aaron Corvin:;; 360-735-4518;