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Unemployment rate falls in Grant County

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | July 29, 2020 11:18 PM

MOSES LAKE — Unemployment in Grant County dropped substantially in June, from a rate of 12.7 percent in May to 8.3 percent last month.

The dramatic improvement was seen in data released Wednesday by the Washington Employment Security Department.

Still, Don Meseck, regional labor economist for ESD, on Wednesday described the report as “a mix of good and bad news.” While the June rate of 8.3 percent is lower than May’s number, it is higher than the June 2019 rate of 5.5 percent.

The employment outlook for July is more uncertain, he said.

The employment picture reflects the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures taken to fight it. State officials placed severe restrictions on movement and closed many businesses in March. A reopening plan was announced in May, and some businesses began reopening. But a surge of coronavirus cases in June prompted state officials to order a halt to the reopening process.

Grant County’s unemployment rate reflected the business slowdown, rising in year-over-year numbers for April and May and falling in June. April’s unemployment rate was 12.6 percent.

Meseck said he doesn’t expect employment to recover during the summer.

“It is not going to be anywhere near normal in July and August,” he said.

“There has been some stagnation” in the reopening plan, Meseck said, which will have an effect, still undetermined, on the job market. “That’s why it’s hard to say what we’re going to see in July.”

July data is released in late August.

“July is — who knows what July is going to hold?” Meseck said.

Some sectors of Grant County’s economy did show signs of improvement in June. Retail trade grew by 6.3 percent between June 2019 and June 2020, adding 220 jobs.

The construction sector lost jobs when counted year over year, with 120 fewer jobs available in June 2020 than June 2019. The manufacturing sector also lost jobs year over year, with 510 fewer jobs in June 2020 than June 2019. The manufacturing losses came in both the durable goods and nondurable goods sectors.

The professional and business services sector also lost jobs and has been losing jobs since September 2019. That sector includes a lot of different businesses, temporary employment agencies among them.

In Grant County, businesses that are looking to hire people often work through temporary employment services. They will try out a prospective employee through the temporary service before offering a permanent position, Meseck said.

If temporary employment services are busy, it’s a sign employers are hiring — “a barometer we use,” Meseck said.

While the professional and business services sector gained 80 jobs from May to June 2020, it lost 610 jobs from June 2019 to June 2020.