Lewis County’s jobless rate rose to the second highest figure statewide at 12.8 percent in August, up slightly from July’s revised figure of 12.1 percent, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department. One local labor economist said the figure will continue to climb through the winter.
“We just didn’t get the seasonal bounce we were expecting,” said Jim Vleming, a labor market economist for Lewis, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Mason and Thurston Counties. “But the numbers are better than they were a year ago.”
Lewis County lost 210 jobs over the month but has a net gain of 60 over the year.
The jobless rate for August in Lewis County remained much higher than other counties across the state, which generally range between 7.1 and 11 percent unemployment. The statewide jobless figure rose to 8.6 percent, while the national rate dropped slightly to 8.1 percent over the month.
The average income in Lewis County for 2011 was $38,325, also much lower that the state’s average of $55,500.
Vleming said the statewide figures are skewed by King County’s big high-wage employers like Microsoft and Amazon.
This year the average annual income in Lewis County is $33,691, with figures ranging from an average of $49,908 in mining to as little as $12,077 in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries.
Grays Harbor County shared the 12.8 percent jobless rate with Lewis County in August, coming in just under Ferry County, which had the highest unemployment figure statewide at 13.3 percent. Wahkiakum County followed with 12.4 percent.
“It just doesn’t seem like there is a whole heck of a lot going on,” Vleming said. “We seem to be in this perpetual holding pattern.”
Cowlitz County’s August unemployment figure also remained high at 11.4 percent, while Pacific County fared slightly better at 11 percent. Both counties have suffered job losses in manufacturing, which has contributed to the high unemployment rates.
Thurston County’s jobless rate remained much lower than its surrounding counties at 8.2 percent due to the stability government jobs create for the area.
San Juan County still has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at just 5.1 percent due to its large summer tourism industry. Garfield County followed with 6.8 percent due to seasonal agricultural employment.
The Lewis County area has historically relied on manufacturing, lumber and natural resources to create job growth.
“Most of the job creation doesn’t happen over the winter. So I expect to see more increases in the unemployment rate,” Vleming said. “We’ll just have to put one foot in front of the other and hope we come out the other end.”
Amy Nile: (360) 807-8235