November was the best month of 2019 to date for employment growth, according to statistics released Friday from the Washington Employment Security Department.
Regional economist Scott Bailey said the spike comes amid an overall cooling job market in the county, compared with a few years ago.
“After a couple really hot years, we’ve cooled off in the past year or two for normal, sustainable growth, reflecting state and national growth,” Bailey said. “It was a good month. The best month of the year, measuring by seasonally adjusted employment.”
Seasonally adjusted, nonfarm jobs increased in November by 1,100, and construction is still the fastest growing sector. The county had decent job expansion in professional business services and in education and health care services, both 700-job increases.
“Manufacturing has been flat, but that’s the story across the nation,” Bailey said.
When Washington’s minimum wage increases from $12 to $13.50 on Jan. 1, there should be a minimal impact on the employment rate, according to Bailey.
Construction, the fastest growing sector, will see “very little” change, he said.
Food services are likely to be the most impacted, and restaurants in the county are adapting in different ways. Mt. Tabor is cutting workers’ hours, Burgerville USA took out a $3 million loan, and Nonavo Pizza is raising its food prices a small amount — likely the most common strategy.
“If you’re a fast-food purveyor and total payroll goes up 6 percent, labor is about 30 percent of the total (expenditures). That spicy-bean burger goes up a dime or 15 cents. It’s minimal in terms of impact on the total economy,” he said. “It will be good for folks on the lower end.”
From a greater perspective, the economy is doing very well, Bailey said.
“This is the longest national expansion on record,” he said, “and we’re still expanding locally.”
In November, the county’s unemployment rate was about 4.7 percent, which is four-tenths of a point higher than a year ago, according to the Washington Employment Security Department.