Our state's economy is recovering slowly--very slowly.
Washington state's unemployment rate for March remained flat at 8.3 percent, but the state added more than 3,000 jobs last month, marking the third consecutive month of job growth--very slow growth. The new rate for March was 8.3 percent, which matched the upwardly revised rate for February, the state's Employment Security Department said. The state's jobless rate is slightly higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent.
Some parts of our state are doing better than others.
While the Puget Sound metro area is doing better at providing jobs thanks primarily to Boeing adding 5,000 new jobs over the last year, Clark County unemployment stood at about 11 percent in February. There’s little evidence based on statewide tracking of any significant improvement in the Vancouver-Portland area for March. Those unemployment numbers are almost 3 percentage points higher than the Portland region’s rate, and they’re well above Oregon, Washington and U.S. figures.
Timber-dependent counties such as Grays Harbor, Skamania, Klickitat, Ferry, Okanogan and Cowlitz, are areas where the unemployment rate (non-seasonally adjusted) hovers in the 12 to 14 percent range.
And, initial unemployment figures were still one-third above pre-recession levels, according to the state Employment Security Department. Further, job creation is weak to nonexistent, with non-farm employment dropping by 500 jobs in February. With more foreclosures still to come and student debt on the rise, regional economist Scott Bailey holds out little hope for a rally that would push the economy forward very quickly.
An estimated 289,400 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work in March, down from a peak of more than 365,000 in February 2010. Employment Security paid unemployment benefits to 189,467 people last month, down from a peak of more than 350,000 in January 2010. As of April 7, 77,512 workers in Washington had run out of all unemployment benefits. About 12,500 people will lose benefits at the end of this week, mostly due to the required shutoff of extended benefits. Another 11,000 people will likely run out of benefits by mid-June.
The point is economic and corresponding jobs are not growing at a pace to insure long-term prosperity. The economy is fragile and the competition for facility investments and job-producing industries is worldwide and fierce.
Don C. Brunell, President (DonB@AWB.ORG)