County adds 2,000 jobs since November 2011

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Clark County's labor market continued to improve slightly in November, adding 400 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis from October. Modest growth in most employment sectors increases the county's year-over-year employment growth to 2,000 jobs, according to the Employment Security Department labor report released Wednesday.

The county has added 2,000 jobs since November 2011, a 2 percent growth rate, regional economist Scott Bailey said in his report. But employment is still 5,700 jobs below its pre-recession peak, Bailey said. Without seasonal adjustments, employment was unchanged in the month at 130,800.

There was seasonal hiring in retail sector, which added 600 jobs, slightly above average for this time of year. Those gains were offset by typical seasonal layoffs in construction and food processing, both down 400 jobs for the month.

For all of 2012, industries showed modest employment gains. Manufacturing led with a 500-job increase. Only information services, which lost 100 jobs, and government, down 200 jobs, have retrenched throughout the year.

The county's October jobless rate was revised from a preliminary 8.2 percent up to 9.7 percent. Bailey predicted November's preliminary 8.0 percent jobless rate, which does not take into account Clark County residents who work in Oregon and have filed claims there, will likely end up at about the 9.7 percent when a revised figure is released next month.

Initial unemployment claims have climbed slightly in the past two months, with 2,000 filings in November. But the overall trend is downward, with November claims at less than half the 4,200 filings from the same month in 2009, according to the report. There were 3,800 continuing unemployment claims this November, well above the typical 3,000 claims for the period.

The report noted that 2,142 county residents are receiving unemployment through a federal extended benefits program that is due to expire at the end of the month unless Congress acts to continue the program.

Statewide, 1,600 jobs were added in November from October, well below the monthly average for the year of 5,000. Washington reported a 7.3 percent unemployment rate for November, significantly lower than the national rate of 8.2 percent and Oregon's 8.1 percent. Both Oregon and Washington experienced cuts in public sector jobs in November, the Employment Security Department said.