Jobless rate keeps climbing on Olympic Peninsula

Unemployment rose by 1.1 percentage points in Clallam and Jefferson counties last month as the leisure and hospitality sector continued to be saddled by COVID-19 restrictions, state officials said.

Clallam County’s jobless rate went from a revised 6.7 percent in October to a preliminary 7.8 percent in November, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

Jefferson County unemployment climbed from a revised 6.3 percent in October to a preliminary 7.4 percent in November, according to the jobs report. The two counties shed a combined 100 non-farm jobs in November and 2,030 jobs for the year.

“Those monthly numbers aren’t too bad,” said Jim Vleming, Employment Security regional economist, in a Dec. 22 interview.

“It’s over the year where we get into trouble.”

The unemployment rate measures the number of workers in the labor force who do not have jobs but are looking for work. It does not count those who are out of work but who have given up looking for the past four weeks.

Both counties saw record unemployment in April — 18.8 percent in Clallam County and 17.4 percent in Jefferson County — at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Unemployment rates in both counties fell by more than 5 percentage points in June, rose by 1 percentage point in July and fell by 1 or more percentage points August, September and October.

In November 2019, Clallam County’s jobless rate was 5.9 percent and Jefferson County unemployment was 5.1 percent.

Clallam County shed 330 leisure and hospitality jobs over the year while Jefferson County lost 260 jobs in leisure and hospitality since November 2019, Employment Security said.

Leisure and hospitality had been hard-hit by COVID-19 restrictions, Vleming said.

“I think we’re all kind of anxious to see what 2021 brings,” Vleming added.

Clallam and Jefferson counties each had significant decreases in the size of their labor forces in November.

Clallam County had 2,478 fewer employed residents in November at 26,042, while Jefferson County’s working population fell by 1,238 to 11,435.

“We’re seeing a lot of volatility with the claims data and with the labor force numbers,” Vleming said.

“It’s pretty much volatile month to month.”

The statewide jobless rate remained at 6.0 percent in November with a net gain of 100 jobs, Employment Security said.

“The government sector job losses almost completely counteracted private sector job gains in November,” agency Economist Paul Turek said in a Dec. 16 press release.

“However, the rate of improvement in private employment has slowed, and the latest round of COVID restrictions creates the potential for payrolls to decline next month.”

King and Asotin counties tied for the lowest unemployment in November at 4.3 percent, followed by Snohomish (4.8 percent) and Whitman (5.1 percent) counties.

Grays Harbor County had the highest unemployment in the state last month at 9.6 percent, followed by Pacific (9.4 percent), Pend Oreille (9.0 percent) and Mason (8.7 percent) counties.

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