Clark County gained about 700 jobs in March on a seasonally adjusted scale. It was the third month in a row of gains for the local job market.
“Another good month,” said Scott Bailey, the Employment Security Department’s regional economist for Southwest Washington. “We’re doing better than previously expected.”
Unadjusted jobs in the county increased by 1,200 jobs in March, and total employment was estimated at 164,000 jobs, he said.
April should see another increase in jobs, but with COVID-19 cases increasing in Clark County and the looming threat of a phase rollback, May might not be so great, Bailey said. In November, the county suffered a similar rollback, causing some restaurant and hospitality jobs to disappear.
Many industries in Clark County are back to their pre-pandemic employment levels or close, but three sectors are still suffering greatly:
• Other services, including hairdressers and barbers, down 500 jobs.
• Government, including K-12 education, down 2,500 jobs.
• Leisure and hospitality, down 3,100 jobs.
On the other end of the spectrum, the construction and professional services sectors are both doing better than before the pandemic. The former industry has gained 400 jobs year-over-year and the latter has gained 200 jobs. Architecture and engineering employment has increased, indicating that jobs in building development are leading the growth.
Bailey also said that February employment was revised upward by 1,500 jobs from what was previously reported.
Still, Clark County lost about 6,700 jobs over the year, a 3.9 percent drop, according to Bailey.
In comparison, U.S. employment dropped 4.5 percent; Washington, 4.8 percent; Oregon, 6.0 percent and the Portland metro, 6.6 percent.
The March unemployment rate in Clark County sat at 6.2 percent – a percentage point higher than a year ago. The number of unemployed residents was estimated at 14,300. Bailey said he’s skeptical about the 6.2 percent unemployment rate, and he expects the rate to be revised upward considering how many unemployment insurance claims Clark County citizens are filing every month.
“We’re seeing unemployment claims steadily decline,” he said, “but they’re still very high numbers.”