Clark County jobless rate climbs in August on public-sector losses

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Clark County shed an estimated 700 jobs in August and posted a preliminary unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, further indications of the area's sluggish growth, the region's labor economist reported Tuesday.

The private sector saw a net gain of 300 jobs from July to August. However, that was dwarfed by a net loss of 1,000 jobs in the public sector, leaving the county down 700 jobs for the month.

The shrinking of public-sector payrolls was driven by "normal summer layoffs" in K-12 education, wrote Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the Washington Employment Security Department, in his "Southwest Washington Labor Market News" analysis.

Despite last month's downturn, Clark County posted a net gain of 600 jobs in the 12 months through August.

Still, that's an annualized growth rate of only 0.5 percent. By contrast, if the county's economy were healthy, it would see annualized growth of 2.5 to 3 percent.

Meanwhile, unemployment in Clark County remains high.

August's initial 9.6 percent rate will likely be revised upward above 11 percent, according to Bailey. That's to account for jobless county residents who previously worked in Oregon.

A similar revision revamped July's unemployment rate from 9 percent to 10.7 percent. In July 2011, the county's jobless rate was 12.7 percent.

In August 2011, it was 13.1 percent.

There were bright spots in Tuesday's labor market report. For example, first-time jobless claims filed by Clark County residents in the state's unemployment insurance system fell by about 14 percent from July to August -- "a good sign," Bailey wrote.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ;http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com