There were 400 fewer employed residents in Clark County in September, but the recovery continues on an upward trend, said Scott Bailey, regional economist for Southwest Washington.
Within six months, he said, the county could be back to pre-COVID employment levels.
“Employment-wise, we’ve been doing mostly two steps forward, and in this one, there’s a little step back but nothing serious,” he said. “We’re still pretty well on track for recovery.”
Unadjusted, Clark County employment rose by 800 jobs in September. Industries that saw gains include construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, professional and business services and education and health services.
Clark County’s unemployment rate was at 3.8 percent in September, although Bailey said that it’s likely an inaccurate number due to a shift in unemployment benefit categories. Bailey said he expects the September unemployment rate to shift up once more accurate numbers are reported.
Bailey said he doesn’t expect the labor shortage to disappear even in six months if the number of jobs is back to where Clark County was pre-COVID.
“The labor shortage is something entirely different,” he said. “I think the shortage will evolve.”
Restaurants and low-wage, in-person labor jobs will still likely be hard to fill because people have reassessed their willingness to commit to that lifestyle. Many in Clark County are likely running through their savings accounts, some are staying at home with child care needs and many are likely working freelance jobs, although it’s impossible to tell how many people in the county rely on freelance work for an income; the numbers aren’t reflected in the state or national statistics.