Clark County gains 4,100 jobs for year ending in October

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Clark County maintained a solid pace of job growth through the 12 months ending in October, a new report issued by the state showed Tuesday, adding 4,100 jobs and posting a healthy annualized growth rate of 3.1 percent.

All but one employment sector showed a net gain in jobs over the year, according to Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department. Trade, transportation and utilities added 1,100 jobs, and manufacturing chipped in 400.

And construction, driven partly by the building of new apartments, fattened payrolls by 800 new positions.

The across-the-board gains mean Clark County, with an annualized growth rate of 3.1 percent, exceeds the growth rates of both the nation and Washington state. By contrast, the U.S. and the state are both growing at the same pace: 1.7 percent.

"There's really pretty broad-based hiring right now," Bailey said in a phone interview Tuesday. Clark County "has accelerated over the last year or two in terms of job growth."

Meanwhile, the county posted a preliminary unemployment rate of 7.1 percent in October. That's down from 9.7 percent unemployment in October 2012. However, October's initial jobless rate of 7.1 percent is likely to be revised upward to just above 8 percent. The revision will take into account those unemployed county residents who previously worked in Oregon.

The county's preliminary August unemployment rate of 8.3 percent was similarly revised upward by 1.3 points to 9.6 percent. September's jobless rate has not been fully revised, Bailey wrote in his "Southwest Washington Labor Market News" report, issued Tuesday.

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

Contrast between county, Northwest states

Clark County's healthy economic performance last month provided a contrast to labor market conditions in Washington, Oregon and the Portland metro region.

Washington's job market "weakened in October with the loss of 8,100 jobs," Bailey wrote in his report. "Half of the loss was in construction and manufacturing. Employment growth over the year has slowed to 1.7 percent …" Unemployment in the state was 7 percent.

Oregon shed 500 jobs in October, according to Bailey, although if you overlook that "one-month blip," hiring has accelerated over the past few months." Oregon's jobless rate was 7.7 percent.

The Portland metro area lost 3,000 jobs, on a seasonally adjusted basis, in October and year-over-year growth "has slowed considerably, from well over 2 percent to 1.4 percent," according to Bailey. However, Bailey wrote that he expects an upward revision in job estimates to improve the metro region's economic performance in a few months.

Unemployment in the metro area was 6.9 percent.

Although Clark 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 October, according to Bailey's report. In October 2012, it was 14.5 percent.

Bailey said Tuesday that Clark County's underemployment rate is likely as high or higher than the nation's, "as is true for the state."