Clark County’s economy expands in May

2,800 jobs added in a year

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



A recovering Clark County economy pushed on in May at an annualized growth rate of 2.1 percent, a state Employment Security Department report showed Tuesday. Payrolls grew in many job sectors, including leisure and hospitality, construction, manufacturing, and trade and transportation.

The county “continued its moderate improvement in May, but still has a long way to go,” according to the analysis by Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the Employment Security Department.

Indeed, during the recession years — from February 2008 to February 2010 — Clark County hemorrhaged 10,200 jobs. Since then, it has recovered 7,000 jobs, or about 68 percent of what was lost.

Nevertheless, Clark County’s economy continues to gain ground, and its employment growth rate now exceeds that of the U.S.

In the 12 months through May, the county added 2,800 jobs. That year-over-year employment growth included an increase of 400 jobs, on a seasonally-adjusted basis, from April to May.

Sectors leading the year-over-year gains included leisure and hospitality (up 800 jobs), construction (up 600 jobs), manufacturing (up 600 jobs), trade and transportation (up 400 jobs), and professional and business services (up 400 jobs).

The only job category that experienced a net loss in May was education and health services, which jettisoned 400 jobs.

May’s 2.1 percent annualized employment growth rate was roughly the same as the 2 percent Clark County posted in the 12 months ending in April. It’s a pace that surpasses the nation’s 1.6 percent growth rate but lags the state’s 2.4 percent rate.

In better times, Clark County’s annual growth rate typically clocks in at 2.5 percent to 3 percent.

The county’s preliminary unemployment rate in May — 7.8 percent — is likely to be revised upward to just above 9 percent, according to Bailey. The revision will take into account those unemployed county residents who previously worked in Oregon.

A similar revision drove up April’s initial jobless rate of 7.8 percent to 9.3 percent.

Since the 2008 financial crisis hit, Clark County’s unemployment rate reached its highest level in March 2010: 15.9 percent.

First-time jobless claims filed by Clark County residents with the state’s unemployment insurance system remain at normal levels and “were unchanged over the month,” Bailey wrote in his “Southwest Washington Labor Market News” report.

Although the county’s economy continues to improve, not everyone who wants full-time work is finding an open door.

The underemployment rate is a broader measure of labor market inertia that includes involuntary part-time workers (those who want full-time work but can’t find it) and those who’ve given up looking for work but who still want a job.

The U.S. underemployment rate was 13.8 percent in May, according to Bailey’s report. In May 2012, it was 14.8 percent.

Because Clark County’s unemployment rate has been higher than the nation’s, Bailey said, the county’s underemployment rate is in “at least the high teens” and may be as high as 20 percent.

Aaron Corvin:;; 360-735-4518;