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News / Business / Clark County Business

Seasonal school layoffs spell net job loss in July in Clark County

Education sector aside, county added some 300 new jobs

By Anthony Macuk, Columbian business reporter
Published: August 21, 2019, 6:00am

Clark County saw a substantial amount of job losses and job gains over the month of July, culminating in a net loss of 600 nonfarm jobs, according to the latest data from the Washington Employment Security Department, leaving the county’s total employment at 170,900.

The bulk of the lost jobs were due to layoffs in the education sector, according to regional economist Scott Bailey, which is typical for July. In his own report, he wrote that once seasonal trends are accounted for, the county’s employment actually rose by an estimated 300 jobs.

“Teachers get paid year round,” Bailey told the Columbian. “But the classified staff do not have a full-year contract.”

The latter category can include paraeducators, clerical workers and bus drivers if they work for the district, Bailey said. Those job categories always see substantial layoffs going into the summer, followed by a surge in hiring when the school year resumes.

A total of 600 jobs were lost at public K-12 schools, along with 400 at state institutions and 300 at private schools, but the losses were offset by 400 new jobs in the construction sector and another 200 jobs in recreation services.

The recreation services gains tend to come from workers at summer entertainment venues and activities, Bailey said.

The county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 5.4 percent, a slight increase from the 5.3 percent reported in June and a 0.7 point increase from the 4.7 percent reported in July 2018. For comparison, Washington State’s July unemployment rate was estimated at 4.5 percent.

The initial preliminary labor market estimates for the first quarter of 2019 have been adjusted downward by 500 jobs, according to Bailey’s report, based on tax returns from employers in the county.

The possibility of a recession made national headlines last week, with discussion fueled by a brief inversion of the yield curve, which is often an early indicator of a coming recession. A yield curve inversion occurs when interest rates on long-term U.S. bonds fall below those on short-term bonds, a sign that investors are wary about the economy’s long-term prospects.

But looking at Clark County’s numbers, Bailey said he didn’t see an imminent problem.

“(A recession) is out there eventually,” he said, “but is it around the corner? I don’t see any sign of that.”

The yield curve inversion needs to occur for a sustained period of time to really be an indicator, he said, and even then there’s typically a lag time between the inversion and an actual recession. And in Clark County, the numbers still point to a growing economy, Bailey said, even if the growth rate has slowed down a bit. The construction sector, for example, has fallen from a growth rate of about 10 percent a year or two ago to about 5 percent today — but that’s still a really strong growth rate, he said, and the area has numerous projects in the pipeline, so the sector is likely to continue growing.

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Columbian business reporter