Hospitality sector drives jobless claims on North Olympic Peninsula

Unemployment continued to climb on the North Olympic Peninsula in December as the hospitality industry bore the brunt of two winters — one weather-related, the other an overall economic freeze brought about by COVID-19 restrictions.

Jobless percentages rose in Clallam County to a preliminary 8.4 percent in December compared to a revised 7.2 percent in November, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

Jefferson County’s unemployment rate increased to a preliminary 8.2 percent in December compared to a revised 7.2 percent in November.

That compares to a 5 percent Jefferson County unemployment rate in December 2020 and a 6 percent rate a year ago in Clallam.

“Early indications are that once this pandemic hit in the middle of March this year, we weren’t going to be going in the right direction,” Jim Vleming, Employment Security regional economist, said last week. “Everyone is kind of looking at a crystal ball and where it comes out at the other end, and the fact that it’s winter makes it a difficult situation to turn around.”

The statewide jobless rate for December stood at a preliminary 7.1 percent compared with a revised November rate of 5.7 percent and a revised 4 percent for December 2019 — the same rate as November 2019, an indication of the loss of pre-pandemic economic stability.

Vleming said the North Olympic Peninsula jobless numbers reflect what’s going on statewide.

In December, Clallam County lost 260 nonfarm jobs, 250 of which were in the leisure and hospitality industry.

In 2020, Clallam County lost 1,350 nonfarm jobs, including 550 in leisure and hospitality, 200 in construction, 190 in government, 150 in professional and business fields and 150 in manufacturing.

Jefferson County in December lost 100 nonfarm jobs, of which 80 were in the leisure and hospitality sector.

In 2020, Jefferson County fared worse than Clallam on the lost-jobs front while populated by less than half the number of residents.

Jefferson lost 1,390 nonfarm jobs over the year, including 350 in construction, 330 in leisure and hospitality, 290 in government, 140 in manufacturing, and 40 in professional business fields.

Pacific County had the highest preliminary unemployment rate statewide at 10.7 percent in December while Grays Harbor and Ferry counties were second highest at 10.1 percent.

Asotin County had the lowest statewide rate at 4.6 percent followed by Columbia’s 6.3 percent, Benton’s 6.4 percent and Walla Walla’s 6.5 percent.

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