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News / Business

Clark County added a net 200 jobs in August

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter
Published: September 19, 2011, 5:00pm

Clark County’s labor market remained sluggish in August, and there’s still no end in sight for the county’s economic stagnation.

Employers added a net 200 jobs compared to August 2010, resulting in what will likely be an unemployment rate of roughly 12 percent when a full accounting can be made, Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department, reported Tuesday.

The biggest job gains were in the private sector: Health care employers have hired 700 people since August 2010, and professional and business services employers also added 700 workers during that same time period. But declines in other sectors offset those gains.

The construction sector shed 600 jobs.

And leisure and hospitality employers cut 500 positions, reflecting declines in fast-food purchases and restaurant visits as people pinch pennies, Bailey said.

Government agencies also lost jobs, eliminating 300 positions in the past 12 months.

The labor market situation in August underscored what’s been going on with Clark County’s economy for months: Nothing.

Or, as Bailey put it in his report Tuesday, “employment has been pretty much flat as the proverbial pancake for the past two years.”

The earliest and most realistic timeline for the county’s economy to recover is five years, according to an analysis by Bailey, and even then the odds aren’t good.

To recover by 2016 and drive down the unemployment rate to 5 percent, the county’s job growth would have to average 4 percent a year, or 5,300 jobs annually. The county would have to create roughly 442 jobs per month to recover by 2016.

There are no signs that such rapid growth is on the horizon, especially in light of a national economy that added zero jobs in August and of the European debt crisis that continues to roil global markets.

Jobless rate revised

Though the county’s economy remains anemic, the unemployment rate is lower than it was during the depths of the recession, which wiped out more than 10,000 Clark County jobs from early 2008 through earlier this year, or roughly 7 percent of the county’s non-farm job base.

The county’s jobless rate was 14.1 percent in July 2009. It peaked at 15.7 percent in January 2010, according to state data.

Bailey’s report on Tuesday showed that August’s preliminary unemployment rate was 10.4 percent.

However, that initial jobless rate will likely increase to roughly 12 percent when revisions are made later to account for unemployed Clark County residents who previously worked in Oregon.

The same type of adjustment was made for Clark County’s July labor market results, with a preliminary jobless rate of 10.1 percent revised upward to 12.3 percent.

The revised unemployment rate for July was more than a point lower than the 13.5 percent jobless rate in July 2010, according to Bailey, “but much of the decline in unemployment was due to some of the jobless giving up looking for work.”

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.

Columbian Port & Economy Reporter