By Don Meseck, Employment Security’s labor economist for Yakima, Kittitas, Grant, Adams, Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties
This analysis of Chelan and Douglas counties incorporates not seasonally adjusted, nonfarm employment and civilian labor force data. Analysis focuses on year-over-year (between March 2014 and March 2015) and average annual (between 2013 and 2014) changes in the labor market.
Preliminary labor force data show that Washington state’s average annual not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased eight-tenths of a percentage point between 2013 and 2014, from 7.0 percent to 6.2 percent. Between the Marches of 2014 and 2015 the rate declined one and one-tenths points, from 6.8 to 5.7 percent.
In the two counties, the annual average unemployment rate fell from 7.2 to 6.6 percent between 2013 and 2014, a six-tenths percentage point drop. The rate decreased one and two-tenths percentage points this March to 6.8 percent from 8.0 percent reading in March 2014 (see Figure 1) as the number of unemployed residents contracted and the labor force expanded (see Figure 3).
Total nonfarm employment
Between 2013 and 2014, Washington’s labor market provided 82,900 new nonfarm jobs, an annual average increase of 2.8 percent. This March, businesses and government organizations across Washington supplied 3,124,500 nonfarm jobs (not seasonally adjusted), compared to 3,023,600 jobs in March 2014, a 3.3 percent year-over-year employment increase. The state’s economy has posted nonfarm employment increases for the past 54 consecutive months (October 2010 through March 2015).
The nonfarm labor market provided 1,200 new jobs between 2013 and 2014, an average annual increase of 3.2 percent, slightly more robust than the 2.8 percent growth rate statewide during 2014. In March 2015 local nonfarm employment averaged 40,700 jobs which was a strong 2,100 job and 5.4 percent expansion from the 38,600 recorded in March 2014 (see Figure 2). Chelan and Douglas counties have registered year-over-year employment increases for the past 34 months (from June 2012 through March 2015).
Employment and unemployment
Washington’s Civilian Labor Force (CLF) expanded by 28,140 residents (a 0.8 percent upturn) from 2013 to 2014. The state’s labor force has increased for the past 14 months (February 2014 through March 2015). Between the Marches of 2014 and 2015 the state’s labor force grew by 2.0 percent. This March, Washington’s CLF tallied 3,543,990 residents versus 3,476,060 in March 2014 equating to 67,930 more Washingtonians in the labor force.
Chelan and Douglas counties’ CLF virtually stabilized in 2014, averaging 60,260 residents in 2013 and 60,240 in 2014. Following 19 months (January 2013 through July 2014) of no growth or of year-over-year declines in the Civilian Labor Force, the CLF expanded from August 2014 through March 2015 (i.e., for the past eight consecutive months). Between the Marches of 2014 and 2015, the CLF rose by 3.4 percent from 55,970 to 57,900 – as 1,930 more residents entered the labor force. Simultaneously, the number of unemployed fell by 560 (from 4,490 to 3,930 between the Marches of 2014 and 2015). Hence the monthly unemployment rate decreased from 8.0 to 6.8 percent (see Figure 3).
Nonfarm industry employment
Not seasonally adjusted estimates indicate that Chelan and Douglas county nonfarm employment rose to 40,700 in March 2015 from the 38,600 jobs tallied in March 2014, a 2,100 job and 5.4 percent increase. Highlights of year-over-year changes follow (as shown in Figure 3):
- Mining, logging and construction employment provided 1,800 jobs in March 2014 and 2,400 jobs in March 2015, a dramatic 33.3 percent and 600 job increase. Most jobs in the local “mining, logging and construction” category are in construction. Year over year, construction employment has grown for the past 12 months (from April 2014 through March 2015). This robust construction job growth in Chelan and Douglas counties between the Marches of 2014 and 2015 was accompanied by rising home and condo sales during this timeframe. According to the April 2015 Real Estate Snapshot newsletter published by Pacific Appraisal Associates, in the Wenatchee market (i.e., in Wenatchee, Malaga, East Wenatchee, Orondo and Rock Island, WA), the number of homes and condos sold in the first three months of 2015 was 172, a 18.6 percent gain over the 145 sold during January, February and March 2014. The dollar volume of these homes and condominiums sold also increased; from $34.5 million during the first three months of 2014 to $44.7 million during the first three months of this year, a 25.9 percent upturn. The median home price in the Wenatchee Market rose from $218,900 in the first calendar quarter of 2014 to $244,950 in the first quarter of this year. Statewide, construction has been adding workers for the past 37 months (from March 2012 through March 2015).
- Estimates indicate that trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities gained 700 jobs between the Marches of 2014 (8,700 jobs) and 2015 (9,400 jobs), an 8.0 percent upturn. However, trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities netted a loss of 100 jobs between calendar years 2013 and 2014 (from 9,400 to 9,300 jobs, respectively), a downturn likely caused by the negative effects of the West Coast ports labor dispute and work slowdown on local trucking and warehousing employment during the last half of 2014.
- Private education and health services increased by 300 jobs, up 4.5 percent, between the Marches of 2014 and 2015. The private education and health services industry has now added jobs for 23 months (from May 2013 through March 2015). Last year, this industry averaged 300 new jobs rising 4.7 percent from 6,400 jobs in 2013 to 6,700 in 2014. Statewide, this industry has grown for at least the past 87 months (from January 2008 through March 2015).
- Between the Marches of 2014 and 2015 leisure and hospitality (primarily hotels and restaurants) jumped from 5,000 to 5,700 jobs, an appreciable 700 job and 14.0 percent upturn. This industry has been adding jobs across the two counties for the past 18 months (from October 2013 through March 2015). Although Washington’s leisure and hospitality industry has been posting year-over-year growth for a longer period of time (i.e., expanding for the past 54 months) the job growth rate has been faster for the past 12 months (i.e., from April 2014 through March 2015), one indication that tourism is alive and well in Chelan and Douglas counties.
- State government was the only major industry to lose jobs over the year in the Wenatchee MSA in March 2015. Specifically, between March 2014 and March 2015 state government employment contracted from 1,200 jobs to 1,100, an 8.3 percent downturn.|
- Local government employment has registered year-over-year increases for the past seven months (September 2014 through March 2015) and between the Marches of 2014 and 2015 it grew from 6,600 to 7,100 jobs, a robust 7.6 percent increase. Statewide, local government expanded for 20 consecutive months (from August 2013 through March 2015).
An April 21, 2015 Associated Press article titled “Yakima Basin drought forces early use of stored water” stated: “The federal Bureau of Reclamation has had to start using stored reservoir water to supplement natural flows early because of a worsening drought in central Washington’s Yakima Basin.
“According to a mid-month forecast released by the bureau, some Yakima Basin water users may only get 54 percent of their supply. Chuck Garner, the bureau’s Yakima Project River Operations supervisor, told the Tri-City Herald that weather conditions forced them to use stored reservoir water starting April 15.
“Typically the stored water in reservoirs is not used until June. Garner says a record low snowpack, the cold weather and the low amount of April precipitation caused a decline in the natural flows. Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency for the Yakima Basin, Walla Walla, Wenatchee and the Olympic Peninsula.”