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Clark County employment data for March misleading

Clark County’s unemployment didn’t register much change in March, according to state data released Tuesday. With the unemployment rate measured at 4.3 percent, it’s going to be a benchmark for how bad things get in the coming months.

“This is the last good month before our Wile E. Coyote moment, statistically,” said Scott Bailey, regional economist for Southwest Washington. “March statistics will not reflect the impact of COVID because the reference point for measuring the unemployed rate and how many jobs we had is the week covering the 12th of the month. That was the week before initial unemployment claims skyrocketed.”

Bailey expects April’s employment data from the Employment Security Department to show double-digit unemployment. Since the public health restrictions were imposed in late March, the number of unemployment claims filed has increased 21-fold. The April unemployment number will be released May 20.

Until then, the scent of a healthy job market lingers. Seasonally unadjusted jobs in Clark County hit 172,100 in March. Construction was the leading sector for new jobs with 400. Education and health services each added 300 jobs.

The unemployment rate of 4.3 percent was the lowest since December, which had a 4.2 percent rate. It hadn’t been that low since the late 1990s, according to Bailey.

“Historically, it’s pretty low,” Bailey said.

The virus’s effects infected the statewide statistics: Washington’s employment decreased by 11,100 in March, and the unemployment rate increased to 5.1 percent.

Nationally, unemployment increased by 1 percentage point in March as 700,000 jobs were lost.

“Those changes were dominated by four states on the East Coast, where things hit a little earlier,” Bailey said.


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