Peninsula jobless rate drops to 7.4 percent

Unemployment fell slightly to 7.4 percent in Clallam and Jefferson counties last month, one year after record joblessness at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Clallam County’s jobless rate fell from a revised 7.6 percent in March to a preliminary 7.4 percent in April, the state Employment Security Department said.

Jefferson County unemployment went from a revised 7.7 percent in March to a preliminary 7.4 percent in April.

Both counties saw record unemployment rates in April 2020 — 20.4 percent in Clallam County and 19.1 percent in Jefferson County.

“Last April was about as bad as it could get,” said Jim Vleming, regional economist for Employment Security.

“We’re definitely out of that streak with the reopening and summer and everything else.”

Clallam County added 90 jobs in April and gained 2,440 jobs since April 2020, state officials said.

Jefferson County employers shed 40 jobs last month but gained 460 for the year, according to the monthly jobs report.

“April of 2020 was a pretty grim stretch,” Vleming said in a May 26 interview.

“We’ve definitely bounced back. We haven’t bounced back all the way, but it’s certainly better than it was.”

From March to April of this year, Clallam County gained 30 jobs in leisure and hospitality, 30 jobs in education and health services and 30 jobs in government. It shed 20 manufacturing jobs over the month, Employment Security said.

Jefferson County lost 50 leisure and hospitality jobs last month but gained 20 public-sector positions, state officials said.

The state unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent in April despite a gain of 11,200 jobs, including 8,100 new jobs in leisure and hospitality.

“This month shows that recovering lost jobs from the pandemic is not a seamless process,” Employment Security Economist Paul Turek said in a press release.

“Meanwhile, leisure and hospitality services, the hardest-hit sector in the economy, continues to make a comeback.”

The U.S. unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.0 percent in March to 6.1 percent in April, Employment Security said.

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee has announced that additional COVID-19 restrictions will end June 30.

“For the economy, I think the big plus is we’re kind of reopening at the beginning of summer,” Vleming said.

“Summer’s always an expanding period of the economy anyway. If we were reopening in November, I don’t know how much of a push we would get from things.

“But since we’re doing it in June, I think that bodes pretty well for the economy,” he added.

Asotin County had the lowest April unemployment at 4.1 percent, followed by King (5.2 percent), Walla Walla (5.3 percent) and Whitman (5.3 percent) counties.

Ferry County had the highest unemployment at 9.8 percent, followed by Grays Harbor (8.9), Pend Oreille (8.9) percent and Pacific (8.6 percent) counties.