A state employment analysis found Cowlitz County added more job openings in the last year, outpacing both Washington state and the U.S. as a whole, but the number of unemployed residents grew from last month.
The Washington State Employment Security Department released Cowlitz County job and unemployment data for the first two months of 2023, which showed a drop in construction and trade jobs but a leap in local government and hospitality.
The report paints a mixed portrait of Southwest Washington’s current job market: strides have been made compared to this time last year, but unemployment rates in Wahkiakum and Cowlitz counties continued to ascend in the last month.
Cowlitz County‘s overall nonfarm employment — in terms of sheer numbers — is at its highest since 2000, but the percentage of people who are unemployed still exceeds what is seen statewide. Population growth could be a factor, as the report says Cowlitz County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the region.
Cowlitz County education and health services added 300 more jobs in February, according to the analysis compiled by Southwest Washington Regional Economist Scott Bailey. Retail lost 100 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities went “unchanged;” manufacturing added 200 jobs.
The county has seen a 4.7% uplift in jobs from before the pandemic, outpacing the state and nearby metropolitan areas, the report says. Nationally, employment increased by 2%; Washington state saw a 3% jump; the Portland metro area grew by 0.9%.
When compared to this time last year, employment went up by 1,200 jobs or 2.9%. Still, the new jobs were not enough to quell growing unemployment rates, which rose from 6.5% in January to 7.3% in February.
The agency estimated 3,700 Cowlitz County residents are unemployed, a 27% increase from this time last year. Washington state as of February had a 5% unemployment rate, according to the employment department.
Cowlitz, Clark and Wahkiakum are the fastest-growing counties in Southwest Washington, the report says.
Wahkiakum County Employment
New jobs came to Wahkiakum County in the last month, adding 30 jobs it lost in January. But unemployment overall has continued an upward trend, the report says, now at 8.8% compared to 7.4% February 2022.
The report says nonfarm employment rose from 810 to 840 last month. Jobs in construction, trade, transportation and utilities accounted for much of the progress, the report says. Manufacturing added 10 jobs; logging lost 10 compared to last year.
Wahkiakum saw 12% or 90 more jobs in the last year. Home health care, business services, restaurants all contributed to the jump. Compared to February 2020, a month before the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, jobs went up by 9.6% or 70. The growth was seen mostly in the services sector, the report says.