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Report details effects of COVID-19 pandemic on Adams County economy

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | February 17, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — While the COVID-19 outbreak damaged Adams County’s economy, the impact wasn’t as great as in some other parts of the state, according to preliminary information released by the Washington Department of Employment Security.

State officials ordered businesses shut and movement restricted beginning in mid-March 2020 in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses were allowed to reopen on a restricted basis in early June, and some were closed again in November. Some of the businesses in Adams County and the rest of eastern Washington that were closed were allowed to reopen Monday on a limited basis.

Don Meseck, regional labor economist for WDES, said May 2020 was the worst month of the year in Adams County. The county lost jobs at a 9.6% rate from May 2019 to May 2020, Meseck said.

But things got better in June 2020.

“The rate of decline slowed and for the past six months, June to November 2020, job loss rates countywide have been less than 2%,” Meseck said.

How long the economic downturn lasts depends in large part on the course of the pandemic, Meseck said. The WDES has prepared a long-term forecast, from 2017 to 2027, which projects an annual growth rate for nonfarm jobs of about 1.3% per year for the north central region.

That region includes Adams, Grant, Okanogan, Douglas and Chelan counties.

Despite the slowdown in the rate of unemployment, Adams County’s economy felt the effects of the economic slowdown and the business closures for most of 2020.

“Year over year, COVID-19-related layoffs pushed local unemployment rates upwards from April to November 2020,” Meseck said.

The November 2020 unemployment rate was 5.8%, up from 5.5% in November 2019.

“Year over year, the Adams County civilian labor force contracted for eight consecutive months, April to October 2020, before increasing in November,” he said.

“The labor force in Adams County increased from 9,257 in November 2019 to 9,915 in November 2020. Unfortunately, the number of unemployed rose from 509 in November 2019 to 576 in November 2020. The upturn in the local civilian labor force was not strong enough to counter the rise in the number of unemployed,” Meseck added.

Agriculture plays the biggest role in Adams County’s economy. From 2018 to 2019, the last years for which data is available, the county added 265 jobs, Meseck said. Of those jobs, 92.8% were in agriculture.