Latest jobless figures show COVID-19 had little effect

OLYMPIA — North Olympic Peninsula unemployment rose slightly in February as the effects of the coronavirus outbreak had yet to register in the latest jobless estimates, state officials said.

Clallam County unemployment went from a revised 6.5 percent in January to a preliminary 7.4 percent in February, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

Jefferson County’s jobless rate went from a revised 5.6 percent in January to a preliminary 5.7 percent in February, according to the latest report.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order for state residents March 23 to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Employment Security regional economist Jim Vleming said he expected the effects of the coronavirus to register in the unemployment statistics for March and especially April.

“I think you’ll see a little fallout in the March numbers, but I don’t think it will be nearly as much as you’ll see in April,” Vleming said in a Tuesday interview.

The statewide unemployment rate dipped from 3.9 percent in January to 3.8 percent in February, while national unemployment went from 3.6 percent to 3.5 percent, according to Employment Security and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

State employers added 3,500 jobs for the month and 100,900 for the year.

“Hiring remained solid in February prior to concerns over the COVID-19 virus outbreak,” said Paul Turek, Employment Security economist.

“Our record low unemployment rate is unlikely to last, however, as the economic impacts from containment efforts become more clear.”

In February, Clallam County had 27,390 working residents and 1,909 looking for work. The Clallam County labor force shrank from 29,854 in January to 29,299 in February.

Jefferson County had 12,573 working residents in February and 742 seeking work. Jefferson County lost 185 from its 13,500-member workforce in January, Employment Security said.

King County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in February at 2.5 percent, followed up Snohomish (2.8 percent) and Whitman (3.9 percent) counties.

Ferry County had the highest unemployment in February at 13.4 percent, followed by Pend Oreille (9.2 percent) and Okanogan (8.9 percent) counties.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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