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Numbers show AC economy a work in progress

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | September 15, 2021 1:00 AM

RITZVILLE — While unemployment in Adams County dropped dramatically from July 2020 to July 2021, the number of available jobs actually went down slightly.

According to a report from the state Employment Security Department released Sept. 7, the county’s unemployment rate dropped from 8% in July 2020 to 4% in July 2021. That was also a slight decrease from the 4.1% unemployment rate in June 2021.

Don Meseck, regional labor economist, wrote in the report Adams County had 6,010 nonfarm jobs in July 2021, compared to 6,030 nonfarm jobs in July 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the shutdowns imposed to combat it, had a substantial effect on Adams County’s economy in 2020, Meseck wrote. The county has made up part of that loss, but not all of it.

“Year over year, the (Adams County) labor force shrank for eight consecutive months, from April to November 2020,” Meseck wrote. “In the eight months since then, December 2020 to July 2021, the labor force experienced some ups and downs.”

The number of people in the workforce dropped by 111 when July 2021 is compared with July 2020, Meseck wrote. But that was more than offset by the decline in the number of unemployed, he wrote.

“The number of unemployed plunged as 481 fewer Adams County residents were out of work this July than in July 2020,” he wrote.

While the county’s economy has gained ground, there are still fewer jobs than in the same period in 2019.

“The current economic recovery in Adams County appears to be a work in progress,” Meseck wrote.

There was some good news in the food processing industry, which accounts for about 90% of the manufacturing jobs in Adams County.

“Year over year, manufacturing employment has increased in each of the last three months, May through July 2021,” Meseck wrote.

“The industry or category that added the most jobs in Adams County from July 2020 to July 2021 was government, federal, state and local,” Meseck wrote. “Within the three levels of government in Adams County, approximately 90% are in local government, and a large share of those positions are at local public schools or local public hospitals (and) clinics.”

The government sector added 70 jobs when July 2021 is compared with July 2020. However, that’s still below the number of jobs the sector had in 2019, Meseck wrote.

The county’s retail trade sector is still struggling, shrinking from May through July 2021, when measured year over year. The leisure and hospitality sector also lost a few jobs from July 2020 to July 2021. The transportation, warehousing and utilities sector also lost jobs, when measured year over year.

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