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'A bit of good news': County unemployment down in September

'A bit of good news': County unemployment down in September

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The number of unemployment claims filed in Cowlitz County has slowly declined over the last three weeks, reversing the two-week bump in mid-September.

Overall, the percentage of people out of work in the county dropped in September to 8.4%, down one percentage point compared to August, according to a regional economist.

Southwest Washington regional economist Scott Bailey said the recent trend is “a bit of good news.”

“I think the claims and the unemployment rate are telling the same story. There’s a little bit of improvement from month-to-month, but not a ton,” Bailey said

During September, the county averaged almost 2,600 regular continued unemployment claims per week, according to Bailey’s monthly job market report. That’s compared to an average of 2,700 claims per week in August.

Continued claims indicate how many workers are filing for unemployment benefits more than one week, or roughly how many people remain jobless.

The week-to-week continued claim filings steadily declined over the summer to roughly 2,500 claims filed the week ending Sept. 5. However, filings ticked upward in mid-September. The county recorded increases in its continued claims two weeks in a row, peaking the week ending Sept. 19, when more than 2,600 filings were recorded.

Since then, week-to-week continued claims have started decreasing again. Two weeks ago, the county recorded just 1,900 filings.

“I’m not sure what that rough spot was all about, but it was good to see them ticking down, assuming that means people went back to work,” Bailey said.

The county’s unemployment rate in September also reflects improvement in the labor market. About 8.4% of the workforce, or about 4,100 workers, was jobless last month, compared to about 9.4% in August, according to Bailey’s report.

Still, overall joblessness remains well above usual levels. In September 2019 about 5.1% of the workforce, or about 1,700 people, was unemployed.

And Bailey cautioned that data suggests that long-term unemployment is on the rise, despite the overall decrease in continued claims. Filings for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), a federally funded extension of benefits, rose from 390 claims the week ending Aug. 29 to 517 claims the week ending Sept. 26.

Statewide data followed similar patterns, Bailey said.

Washington’s economy added 2,400 jobs in September, and state unemployment rate decreased to 7.8%, down from 8.4% in August.

State continued claims kept decreasing week-to-week, including a nearly 10.2% drop from the week ending Oct. 4 to the week ending Oct. 10.

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