Jobless rate stayed below 5% in Clark County in August

Government layoffs lead job loss; construction, education and leisure rise

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County’s labor market took a slight step backward in August, according to the latest data from the state Employment Security Department.

The data, released Tuesday, show the county lost 200 jobs, when adjusting for seasonal trends. For comparison, the months of June and July added 1,100 and 1,300 jobs, respectively. Without adjusting for seasonal trends, 700 jobs were lost in August.

Still, unemployment remained below 5 percent, at 4.8 percent, for the fourth consecutive month. This was the lowest August unemployment rate since 1999, when it was 4 percent flat.

Economists, however, say there isn’t a perfect way to gauge the economy’s health. Unemployment doesn’t account for the size of the labor market, and the rate could be suppressed if fewer people aren’t even looking for work, for example.

Without adjusting for seasonal trends, typical summer layoffs caused 1,500 jobs lost in government and public education. Leisure and hospitality added 500 jobs, while private education, health care and construction each grew by 200 jobs.

It’s been a strong year overall. Clark County has added 8,200 jobs so far in 2017, good for a 5.3 percent growth. Job growth has been 1.4 percent nationwide; 2.5 percent in Washington; 2.6 percent in Oregon; and 3.1 percent in the Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area.