North Olympic Peninsula jobless rate falls slightly

Border closure, delta variant stunt rebound

North Olympic Peninsula employment remained “fairly steady” in July as jobless rates fell slightly in Clallam and Jefferson counties, a state economist said.

Clallam County unemployment went from a revised 5.7 percent in June to a preliminary 5.5 percent in July despite a loss of 100 nonfarm jobs, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

Jefferson County shed 30 jobs, but unemployment fell from a revised 5.6 percent in June to a preliminary 5.1 percent in July, officials said in a Tuesday report.

“Nonfarm jobs remain fairly steady,” Employment Security regional economist Jim Vleming said Wednesday.

Unemployment rates can differ from net changes in jobs gained or lost because of out-of-county commuting and changes in the size of the labor force, Vleming has said.

Clallam County added 60 jobs in the private sector but lost 160 in the public sector last month, Employment Security said.

Jefferson County gained 10 private sector jobs but lost 40 government jobs in July.

In July 2020, unemployment was 12.8 percent in Clallam County and 11.6 percent in Jefferson County.

“Nonfarm employment in Clallam and Jefferson remains a challenge,” Vleming said in a text message.

“With the (MV Coho) ferry out of service until next year, that cuts into the Clallam economy somewhat,” he added.

The Coho ferry will resume daily passenger service between Port Angeles and Victoria once the U.S. reopens its border with Canada. Canada has reopened its border, but the U.S. border has been closed for COVID-19 since the spring of 2020.

Meanwhile, the state added 22,700 jobs in July as nonfarm unemployment dipped from 5.2 percent in June to 5.1 percent last month.

Statewide unemployment was 10.8 percent in July 2020. The state has added jobs every month since December as it continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, Employment Security said.

“The state’s job market recovery has gathered considerable momentum this summer,” said Paul Turek, agency economist, in a press release.

“But while additional progress over the next month is a reasonable expectation, the rise of the delta variant could mute some of the rebound.”

Asotin County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in July at 3.0 percent, followed by Chelan (3.6 percent) and Walla Walla (3.7 percent) counties.

Ferry County had the highest unemployment at 7.5 percent, followed by Grays Harbor (6.4 percent) and Pacific (6.2 percent) counties.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.

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