UNEMPLOYMENT: NE Washington counties had unemployment rates the same or lower than pre-pandemic levels

(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)

Despite lower unemployment rate, labor forces in all three NE Washington counties have shrank…

At least on the surface, the NE Tri County Area appears to be recovering in the unemployment numbers as February’s job report has county unemployment rates lower in 2021 than in their pre-pandemic numbers in 2020. Stevens County’s unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, down from 9.2 percent a year ago, Ferry County’s jobless numbers sit at 10.2 percent which is way down from 13.8 percent in 2020 and Pend Oreille County has the same unemployment numbers from a year ago at 9.9 percent.

The state of Washington’s unemployment rate sits at 6.4 percent with Asotin County having the lowest unemployment rate at 4.3 percent. A year ago, Washington’s unemployment rate was 4.5 percent and since COVID-19 began spreading in Washington State, the private sector has lost 162,500 jobs and the public sector lost 51,300 jobs.

The labor force in all three Northeast Washington counties has shrank in size. In 2020, Stevens County had 19,446 workers, where now the workforce sits at 17,987. In Ferry County, the labor force sat at 2,588 and that number is now 2,440 while in Pend Oreille County the work force dropped from 5,175 to 4,818.

The number of employed workers in all three counties also dropped. Stevens County had 17,656 people employed in 2020 and that has since dipped to 16,468. In Ferry County that number went from 2,232 to 2,190 in one year and in Pend Oreille County that number dropped from 4,661 to 4,339.

Initial jobless claims in Stevens County dropped last week to 64 from the previous week’s 76. Ferry County’s initial claims went from 12 to 8, Pend Oreille’s number of claims rose from 15 to 17.

In the state as a whole, 24,500 jobs were added including 12,700 in the leisure and hospitality sector. Professional and business services gained 2,500 jobs while the education and health services sector added 2,400.

Transportation and warehousing saw a gain of 1,500 jobs while retail gained 1,300 jobs in the state of Washington.

Meanwhile, initial jobless claims grew in the state last week, with 11,455 people filing for unemployment for the first time, while that number was 11,398 last week. This number is still considerably lower than the initial jobless claims during the peak of the pandemic.

The U-6 unemployment rate for the state, which also includes discouraged workers who has given up looking for a job, underemployed workers who are working less hours and unemployed workers – the number for the state, grew to 13 percent in the third quarter of 2020.