Jobless rate rises slightly on Peninsula

‘It’s like treading water’

PORT ANGELES — North Olympic Peninsula employers shed 70 jobs in February as Clallam and Jefferson county unemployment rates rose slightly last month, state officials said.

Clallam County unemployment moved from a revised 7.5 percent in January to a preliminary 7.8 percent in February, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

Jefferson County unemployment went from a revised 7.1 percent in January to a preliminary 7.5 percent, according to a monthly jobs report.

“It’s been kind of a tough go,” regional economist Jim Vleming said in a Tuesday interview.

“It’s like treading water at this point.

“I imagine things are going to come back pretty hard in the leisure and hospitality sector in the next couple of months, especially when we get into better weather in spring and whatnot,” Vleming added.

“But right now, we’re down over the year.”

Clallam County lost 20 nonfarm jobs from January to February and 400 jobs over the year.

Jefferson County shed 50 jobs in February and 330 for the year.

Clallam County unemployment peaked at a record 20.4 percent last April during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown and returned to single digits last August.

Jefferson County unemployment reached a record-high 19.1 percent last April and fell below 10 percent by August.

In February 2020, Clallam County unemployment was 6.9 percent and Jefferson County’s jobless rate was 6.1 percent.

“That’s kind of in the ballpark, considering all that we’ve been though,” Vleming said.

Vleming predicted that the North Olympic Peninsula would benefit from seasonal tourism later this spring and summer.

“I think the numbers are going to be a little bit better in Clallam than other places because it’s kind of a destination spot,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state unemployment rate dipped from 6.0 percent in January to 5.6 percent in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Washington employers added 24,500 nonfarm jobs in February, including 23,600 in the private sector, Employment Security said.

“The easing of restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 is helping those in leisure and hospitality regain jobs,” state economist Paul Turek said in a press release.

“But hiring was also widespread across other industries, and the unemployment rate moved down accordingly.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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