Clark County job growth remains ‘very strong’

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter

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Clark County’s employment growth “remained very strong” in the 12 months ending in March, the region’s labor economist reported Tuesday, adding 6,700 jobs and posting an annualized growth rate of 4.8 percent.

The region’s three big drivers of job creation were trade, transportation and utilities (up 1,300 jobs), professional and business services (up 1,200 jobs) and education and health services (up 1,200 jobs), said Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department, in his analysis released Tuesday.

“Manufacturing held steady,” Bailey wrote in his monthly labor market update. The sector added 400 jobs over the year, “with all of the growth on the durable side of the house,” Bailey said in reference to fabricated metals, machinery and transportation equipment.

The job growth from a year ago included an increase of 700 positions — unadjusted for seasonal factors — from February to March.

Meanwhile, every major employment sector in the county “was once again up over the year,” according to Bailey. That includes construction and natural resources (up 400 jobs), government (up 700 positions), information services (up 500 jobs), finance (up 200 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (up 400 positions).

Clark County’s annualized growth rate of 4.8 percent in March more than doubled the nation’s (2.3 percent), surpassed those of Washington and Oregon (3.3 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively) and exceeded that of the Portland metro area (3 percent).

Still, unemployment in the county “remained high,” Bailey noted in his analysis.

The county’s preliminary unemployment rate in March clocked in at 6.7 percent. That’s down from 8.3 percent unemployment in March 2014. However, March’s initial jobless rate is likely to see an upward revision. The revision would take into account those unemployed county residents who previously worked in Oregon. The county’s preliminary unemployment rate of 7.8 percent in February was revised upward to 8.3 percent. In previous reports, Bailey has said that certain measures indicate people who had dropped out of the labor force are now returning to hunt for jobs. And the return of unemployed job seekers has contributed to Clark County’s elevated jobless rate.

Still, the county’s economy enjoyed a healthy showing in March.

“In summary,” Bailey wrote, “the labor market remained on a positive trajectory, with strong job growth across almost all industries, and declining unemployment.”

Clark County’s labor market report for April, including payroll and unemployment figures, is slated for release May 26.