Clark County’s labor market maintained its recovery momentum in June with a seasonally adjusted net gain of 700 jobs, according to the latest report from regional economist Scott Bailey. The county added 1,400 jobs in June in unadjusted terms, for a total of 167,700 jobs.
The seasonally adjusted figure is calculated to account for routine annual ups-and-downs in employment. June’s total of 700 continues a nearly unbroken streak of job gains for Clark County in 2021. The only exception was a seasonally adjusted net loss of 300 jobs in April, which Bailey attributed in part to the volatility of the job market one year prior.
“The whole seasonal adjustment thing gets really dicey when you have a crazy thing like April of last year,” he said. “It can throw it off a little bit. But the chart shows the trend is up, at a pretty nice pace.”
Clark County’s construction sector saw the greatest gain, picking up 500 jobs in June, followed by the leisure and hospitality industry, which added 300 jobs. The trade, transportation and utilities sector and the professional and business services sector each gained about 200 jobs, and several other sectors gained or lost about 100 jobs each, according to Bailey’s report.
The county’s unemployment rate for June was estimated at 5.1 percent, slightly below the statewide figure of 5.3 percent. It’s also less than half of the figure reported a year ago for Clark County, Bailey noted. The number of unemployed residents in the county fell from 26,500 in June 2020 to 12,300 in June 2021.
Employment news was also positive at the national level, Bailey wrote, with significant gains in the K-12 public education and leisure and hospitality industries.
“Nonfarm employment had its best month since last August, adding 850,000 jobs in June,” he wrote.
Even so, the country is still 6.8 million jobs — or 4.4 percent — below where it started in February 2020 right before the pandemic hit.
Bailey referenced a recent report from the National Bureau of Economic Research that found the pandemic-induced recession only lasted two months — from mid-February to mid-April 2020 — making it the shortest recession in U.S. history. (A recession is a period when the economy is contracting, and does not include the subsequent recovery period).
“The recovery might take a bit longer,” Bailey wrote.
As of June, Clark County had lost a net 5,700 jobs since the start of the pandemic, Bailey reported — about 3.3 percent of its total employment in February 2020. The equivalent figure was a 6.1 percent loss for the Portland metro area, a 5.3 percent loss for Oregon, a 4.2 percent loss for Washington and a 4.4 percent loss nationally.
In Clark County, the biggest hits came in the accommodation and food services sector, which has lost 2,300 jobs, followed by the arts, entertainment and recreation sector, which has lost 1,300, and the K-12 public education sector, which has lost 1,200.
Most other sectors saw smaller losses, and a few saw modest gains. Most notably, the professional services section has gained 600 jobs.
Bailey’s report also discussed the economic impacts of climate change and several recent extreme weather events, including the late June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.
A recent USDA report found that 68 percent of the Pacific Northwest’s spring wheat crop was in poor or very poor condition, he said, and Midwest wheat was in similarly bad shape, which could impact local transportation jobs due to the amount of wheat that is typically shipped by rail or barge to the ports of Vancouver and Kalama for export.
Continued unemployment claims in Clark County saw a substantial drop last week, according to data released Thursday by the Employment Security Department. Continued claims stood at 12,520 in the week ending July 10, then fell by 7.9 percent to 11,532 in the week ending July 17.
“That was the biggest weekly improvement for almost a year, so that’s really good news,” Bailey said.
All three subcategories of continued claims saw significant drops last week. Regular continued claims fell by 167 to 2,842, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance continued claims fell by 433 to 4,093, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation continued claims fell by 388 to 4,597.
Initial claims rose slightly last week, from 222 to 234, but the jump was small enough that Bailey described it as “just noise.” At this point, he said, initial claims have nearly leveled off to their usual pre-pandemic range.
The 11,532 continued claims figure is still far above normal, Bailey said — for comparison, there were about 2,500 continued claims in July 2019 — but the improvement from the prior week does show that the economy is recovering. The gains were also widespread, he said, as opposed to being concentrated in a single sector of the economy.
“It was pretty evenly distributed across occupations and industries,” he said.