Clark County’s economy still ‘very strong’

6,200 jobs added in the 12 months ending in January

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter

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Employment data for each of Washington's 39 counties for January 2015

Clark County’s economy “continues to be very strong,” the region’s labor economist reported Tuesday, adding 6,200 jobs in the 12 months ending in January and posting an annualized growth rate of 4.4 percent.

The employment growth was based on revised data, according to Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department, in his analysis released Tuesday. Initial measures of unemployment “continued to be high,” Bailey said, although those measures have yet to undergo a similar revision process.

Clark County’s labor market report for February, including payroll and unemployment figures, is slated for release March 24.

January’s labor market results show the county experiencing “good job growth” but still having “a lot of work ahead to bring down unemployment,” Bailey said in an email to The Columbian. “We’ll see how the annual revisions for unemployment change things up next month.”

The county’s annualized growth rate of 4.4 percent in January topped the nation’s (2.3 percent), surpassed those of Washington and Oregon (3.4 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively) and exceeded that of the Portland metro area (2.9 percent).

Every job sector in Clark County showed net employment gain over the year. They included trade, transportation and utilities (up 1,500 jobs), professional and business services (up 900 jobs), construction (up 400 jobs), and education and health services (up 1,000 jobs).

“The first two sectors were revised upward,” Bailey wrote in his analysis, “while both construction and health care were revised downward.” Manufacturing “remained very solid” by adding 400 jobs over the year, according to Bailey. And government, including local municipalities and school districts, grew payrolls by a net 500 jobs over the year.

Meanwhile, Clark County’s preliminary unemployment rate in January clocked in at 8 percent. That’s down from 8.6 percent unemployment in January 2014. However, January’s initial jobless rate may see an upward revision.

The revision would take into account those unemployed county residents who previously worked in Oregon. Clark County’s preliminary unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in December was revised upward to 7.8 percent.