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Booming construction helps alleviate some COVID-19 impacts in Grant County

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | February 10, 2021 1:00 AM

A booming construction industry helped cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Grant County’s economy in 2020. But even with that, the county’s average annual unemployment rate increased from 6.9% in 2019 to 8.8% in 2020.

Don Meseck, regional labor economist for the Washington Department of Employment Security, said the county’s unemployment rate was higher from April to November 2020 than it was from April to November 2019.

But the December 2020 unemployment rate was lower, at 7.9%, than in December 2019, at 8.9%.

The county’s economy added 20 new nonfarm jobs from 2019 to 2020 — a modest upturn, Meseck said, which was nonetheless considerably better than the 4.6% downturn statewide last year.

Grant County was the only one of five counties in the region – Grant, Okanogan, Adams, Douglas and Chelan counties – to add jobs in 2020, Meseck said. When measured year over year, the county’s civilian labor force increased from September to December.

The construction sector was a major factor in alleviating some of the impacts of coronavirus-related limitations.

Construction industry employment increased each month from December 2019

to December 2020, Meseck said.

“Preliminary annual average unemployment estimates indicate that the growth in this Grant County industry was phenomenally good,” Meseck said. “Construction employers averaged 390 new jobs in 2020, a 26.4% increase – more robust than any other major Grant County industry.”

The local construction industry produced 1,980 jobs in December 2020, 480 jobs more than December 2019.

Manufacturing employment also expanded from December 2019 to December 2020. The number of manufacturing jobs in Grant County increased from 4,220 in December 2019 to 4,690 in December 2020, Meseck said.

All of that growth was in the nondurable goods sector, primarily in the food-processing sector, he said. The nondurable goods sector added jobs each month from July to December 2020.

Retail trade employment also expanded in Grant County in the last half of 2020, from June to December. Retail trade employers added 100 jobs from December 2019 to December 2020.

The news was not as good in the county’s leisure and hospitality sector, which lost jobs from April to December.

“Employment dropped from 2,660 jobs in December 2019 to 2,220 jobs in December 2020,” Meseck said.

Grant County’s state and local government education sector lost jobs from April to December 2020.

“In December 2020 there were 650 fewer state and local government education jobs than December 2019,” Meseck said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.