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Saturday, May 27, 2023
May 27, 2023

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Education sector propels Clark County’s September job growth

Health care gains reverse loss of 200 jobs in previous month

By , Columbian business reporter

The education sector led the charge for job gains in Clark County last month, adding about half of the roughly 1,600 jobs that the county picked up. That’s according to the latest labor market report from the state’s regional labor economist, Scott Bailey.

In addition to the 800 added school jobs, Clark County’s health care sector and arts, entertainment and recreation sector saw gains of 200 jobs apiece. The health care gains reversed a 200-job loss from the month before.

Total employment in Clark County was estimated at 170,700.

The education sector gains aren’t yet enough to make up for typical seasonal losses over the summer — August saw the loss of about 2,000 education jobs — but there’s likely still more growth to come.

“It’s usually a smaller adjustment in October and a tiny one in November,” Bailey said.

The report also shows a gain of about 700 jobs in the government sector, although Bailey clarified that most of those numbers overlap with the gains in education. Many of the government jobs were from the K-12 education category, and Bailey said the gains in the state government category likely include education jobs at public institutions like Clark College.

“Other than that, state government (employment) has been flat or even decreasing slightly,” he said.

The county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 4.8 percent, a drop from the 5.5 percent rate reported in August. Bailey noted that 4.8 percent is still 0.6 of a percentage point more than a year ago, although he added that the number of unemployment claims filed by Clark County residents was almost unchanged from September 2018, at 2,162.

Washington’s overall unemployment rate was 4.2 percent.

When reporting the state-level jobs numbers, the Employment Security Department posts the actual change in jobs and a seasonally adjusted figure, which is recalculated to exclude large changes in the workforce that reliably occur at the same point in each year, such as thousands of students seeking summer jobs in June.

County-level labor market numbers are not seasonally adjusted, but Bailey’s report included a seasonally adjusted estimate for Clark County that showed a gain of 600 jobs for September.

Job growth over the past year in Clark County was reported at 3,000 jobs, or 1.8 percent. That compares with reported rates of 1.9 percent for the Portland metro area, 1.2 percent for Oregon, 1.9 percent for Washington and 1.4 percent for the United States.

“Both Washington and Oregon have slowed down in employment growth, as have Portland and Seattle,” Bailey said. “It’s just part of where we are in the business cycle.”

On the national level, a greater proportion of new hires has come from people who weren’t considered unemployed, he said.

“People aren’t moving from unemployed to employed, they’re moving from ‘not in the labor force’ to employed,” he said.

Back in Clark County, construction and mining continues to be the fastest-growing sector, adding more than 1,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, financial services and government have also seen solid growth, according to Bailey’s report.

Information services, education and health care services numbers have all been static over the past year, while manufacturing and trade, and transportation and utilities have averaged small losses.

The construction industry usually reaches its seasonal employment peak in the fall, Bailey said, so the county will likely see that sector hold steady or climb slightly higher next month. There’s also potential for a small uptick in retail and transportation jobs as the region heads into the early portion of the holiday season, he said.

Despite a rise in speculation in recent months about a possible recession, Bailey has maintained that any future recession is still far in the future, and he said that assessment hasn’t changed.

“I’m still sticking with it’s not in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Columbian business reporter