Does it feel like Clark County’s unemployment rate dropped by two percentage points in a single month?
If not, your instincts are better than the January unemployment numbers that were released Tuesday by the state Department of Employment Security. The department’s report shows the county’s unemployment rate at 10.6 percent — an astonishing decrease from December’s 12.7 percent and an unbelievable improvement from last January’s 15.7 percent jobless rate.
Unbelievable is right. “This preliminary rate substantially understates unemployment in January,” said Scott Bailey, the Employment Security Department’s regional economist for Southwest Washington. When all is said and done, he said, unemployment could be two percentage points higher than the number released Tuesday — in other words, right about where it was in December.
Before explaining why the state would issue a number so clearly inaccurate, it’s worth noting that the report does contain useful new information about the county’s economy. The county is showing a wisp of economic recovery, adding 100 non-farm jobs in January, Bailey said. “It’s a small number, but at least it’s positive,” he added.
Still, total employment of 124,200 in the county was down 700 jobs over the year. Construction and mining is down 800 jobs for the year, and all other industries are close to where they were a year ago. The county has lost 9,600 jobs from the pre-recession peak, Bailey said.