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News / Business / Clark County Business

Clark County’s median hourly wage rises to $28.74, grows faster than inflation

Hiring slows in state but unemployment remains low at 3.7 percent

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 2, 2023, 6:24pm

Clark County’s median hourly wage outpaced inflation during the second quarter of last year, according to the latest labor market report from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

The annualized wage for jobs in the county was $67,329, according to regional economist Scott Bailey’s report. That’s a 3.4 percent decline from the second quarter of 2021 after adjusting for inflation. Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties also declined from that year.

“Here’s where things get interesting: Median hourly wages outpaced inflation,” Bailey wrote.

The median hourly wage rose by 1.4 percent to $28.74 an hour during the second quarter of 2022.

That was one of the takeaways from the report, which also touched on employment numbers, housing and national economic indicators.

The county’s unadjusted unemployment rate for December was 4.6 percent, up from 4.5 percent in November and 4 percent in October. The county added 500 nonfarm jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, Bailey said.

Home prices have declined in the Portland area for seven consecutive months, dropping by an average of 5.6 percent in the city. Though they were still up 1.1 percent over the past year.

“Prices still have a long ways to go to return to anywhere near ‘normal’ affordability,” Bailey wrote.

There were 4,100 housing permits issued in the county in 2022, though single family permits slowed during the last half of the year as mortgage rates rose. The increase in permits was primarily due to multifamily permits in the last few months of the year.

Hiring slowed in Washington in December, but unemployment remained low. The state’s jobless rate was 3.7 percent in December after having been 4 percent in November, according to Bailey.

The economist said the state added 1,500 jobs in December, down from 12,000 in November. Employment was up 3.5 percent over the year, however, and 1.9 percent up from before the pandemic.

Tech layoffs haven’t yet appeared in the monthly unemployment numbers at the state level, except for 600 jobs lost in software.

The state has a population-adjusted deficit of 32,000 jobs, Bailey said. This is an indication that the state hasn’t fully recovered from the pandemic.

The recovery has varied widely by region, however. Clark County’s employment was 8.7 percent above pre-pandemic numbers, while 10 counties have been more than 1 percent below their pre-pandemic levels.

Aerospace and hotels and motels have been two of the state’s strongest industries. Trucking and employment services have cut back previous gains, Bailey said.

The nation’s gross domestic product expanded in the fourth quarter of 2022, Bailey said. The financial indicator rose by 2.7 percent. The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council has projected that the GDP would decline in that quarter. Three-quarters of the increase was caused by inventories being built up, as opposed to goods being produced and purchased, Bailey said.

“It’s often not easy to tell if this is a normal adjustment by businesses or reflects weakness on the part of customers,” Bailey wrote in his report.

Meanwhile, consumer spending was up 1.4 percent, residential housing investment continued to decline and business investment spending was up 3.3 percent. Exports declined, as did imports. And government spending rose by 3.6 percent.

Total personal income was essentially unchanged, Bailey said, increasing by 0.1 percent over the month.

Industrial production, including energy, mining and manufacturing, was unchanged after having declined two months in a row. Factory production rose by 0.9 percent and mining activity had a smaller rebound after a couple of months of less activity.

Retail and food service sales rose by 2.5 percent in January after having fallen in both November and December. This was driven by a 7 percent increase in restaurant sales, Bailey said.

The economist also mentioned that the U.S. labor market was still short by about 1.1 million workers in January.

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