Labor area summary for Yakima County, January 2015

By Donald  Meseck, ESD’s regional labor economist serving Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Kittitas, Okanogan and Yakima counties.

This report incorporates not seasonally adjusted, nonfarm employment and civilian labor force data. Analysis focuses on year-over-year (between January 2014 and January 2015) and average annual (between 2013 and 2014) changes in the labor market.

Unemployment rates
Preliminary labor force data show that Washington state’s average annual not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased nine-tenths of a percentage point between 2013 and 2014, from 7.0 percent to 6.1 percent. Between the Januarys of 2014 and 2015, the rate stabilized at 7.0 percent.

In Yakima County, preliminary data indicate that the average annual unemployment rate decreased nine-tenths of a percentage point between 2013 and 2014, from 9.2 to 8.3 percent. However, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose five-tenths of a point in January 2015 to 12.3 percent, from 11.8 percent in January 2014 (as shown in Figure 1). Why? The number of unemployed residents grew more rapidly than the labor force, hence this five-tenths point year-over-year rise in the rate.


Yakima County unemployment rate

Figure 1. Yakima County’s unemployment rate increased five-tenths of a percentage point between January 2014 and January 2015.

Total nonfarm employment
Between 2013 and 2014, Washington’s labor market provided 82,800 new nonfarm jobs, an annual average increase of 2.8 percent. This January, businesses and government organizations across Washington supplied 3,098,200 nonfarm jobs (not seasonally adjusted), compared to 2,997,700 jobs in January 2014, a 3.4 percent year-over-year employment increase. The state’s economy has posted nonfarm employment increases for the past 52 consecutive months (October 2010 through January 2015).

The Yakima County nonfarm labor market added approximately 1,000 jobs between 2013 and 2014, an annual average upturn of 1.3 percent. Between the Januarys of 2014 and 2015, the local nonfarm market registered a 3.1 percent and 2,400 job upturn. Employers provided 79,400 jobs in January 2015 versus 77,000 in the corresponding month one-year prior (see Figure 2). Yakima County’s employment has increased, year over year, for the past 26 consecutive months (December 2012 through January 2015) although local job growth rates have consistently been less robust than growth rates statewide.


Nonfarm employment in Yakima County.

Figure 2. Nonfarm enployment in Yakima County increased 3.1 percent from January 2014 to January 2015.

Employment and unemployment
Preliminary data indicate that Washington’s Civilian Labor Force (CLF) expanded by 20,920 residents (a 0.6 percent upturn) between 2013 and 2014. In effect, the state’s labor force finished the year strong, by posting year-over-year increases from July through December 2014. This uptrend continued into the first month of 2015. Between the Januarys of 2013 and 2014 the state’s labor force increased 2.5 percent. This January, Washington’s CLF tallied 3,527,970 residents versus 3,441,800 in January 2014 equating to  86,170 more Washingtonians in the labor force.

Preliminary data indicate that Yakima County’s CLF shrank between 2013 (124,360 residents) and 2014 (123,390 residents) – not particularly good economic news. However, a weak start during the first six months of calendar year 2014 caused this average annual decline. In fact, the local labor force has increased in five of the past seven months. (Between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014 the CLF stagnated and between the Decembers of 2013 and 2014 the CLF dipped by 1.6 percent.) Most recently, between the Januarys of 2014 and 2015, the CLF advanced a solid 3.8 percent, from 111,560 to 115,770 residents (meaning that 4,210 more residents were in the labor force). Unfortunately, the number of unemployed also grew; 1,120 more County residents were out of work this January than in January 2014. The result: Yakima County’s unemployment rate rose five-tenths of a percentage point from January 2014 to January 2015.


Nonfarm industry employment
Not seasonally adjusted estimates indicate that Yakima County’s employment rose to 79,400 in January 2015 from the 77,000 jobs tallied in January 2014, a 2,400 job and 3.1 percent increase. Highlights of year-over-year changes follow.

  • Construction employment advanced by 300 (up 11.1 percent) countywide between January 2014 and January 2015. Mining, logging and construction registered 3,000 jobs across Yakima County in January 2015 and 2,700 jobs in January 2014, with construction accounting for the lion’s share of the jobs in this combined category. This industry has posted strong year-over-year growth for the last 18 months (from August 2013 through January 2015). Statewide, construction employment rose 11.6 percent between the  Januarys of 2014 and 2015 and has grown for 35 months (from March 2012 through January 2015).However, commercial and residential sales got off to a slow start in Yakima County in the first month of 2015. The January 2015 edition of Headwaters – the Source newsletter published by KMW Enterprises, LLC in Selah, WA., stated that commercial and residential sales decreased in January 2015 versus January 2014. The number of commercial and residential real estate sales countywide sank from 216 during January 2014 to 202 during the first month of 2015, a 6.5 percent downturn. The value of these sales also decreased, by 10.8 percent, from $24.4-million in January 2014 to $21.7-million in January 2015. However, the average home price in Yakima County rose 2.3 percent between the Januarys of 2014 and 2015, from $156,281 to $159,918.
  • Manufacturing rose 6.5 percent (up 500 jobs), from 7,700 in January 2014 to 8,200 in January 2015. This year-over-year gain was led by nondurable goods manufacturers (primarily in food processing).
  • Wholesale trade employment (primarily at fresh fruit packinghouses) rose 7.3 percent (up 300 jobs), from 4,100 in January 2014 to 4,400 in January 2015.
  • Health care and social assistance also provided 300 more jobs (up 2.0 percent) in Yakima County between the Januarys of 2014 and 2015.
  • Local government organizations across Yakima County tallied 13,800 jobs in January 2015; up from 13,100 in January 2014, a strong 700 job and 5.3 percent increase. Local government includes city and county jobs (i.e., with public school districts, police and fire departments, jails, libraries, etc.) plus jobs with tribal enterprises and organizations.

Agricultural employment and production
The labor dispute and work slowdown that affected 29 West Coast seaports has been resolved. Read more in a Feb. 25 story in the Puget Sound Business Journal.


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