The spurt of job growth that fueled Cowlitz County’s economy has fizzled out, but the unemployment picture remains better than it did a year ago, according to a state report.
According to the state Employment Security Department, the county lost 200 jobs in February, led by a loss of 300 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. That includes a loss of 100 retail jobs.
“After rapid growth in the first half of 2018, Cowlitz County employment has leveled off over the past six months,” according to regional economist Scott Bailey’s monthly report.
The February unemployment rate dropped slightly last month, to 6.6 percent. That’s lower than in February 2018 (7 percent) and this January (6.9 percent). The state unemployment rate last month was 5.2 percent.
Over the past two years, the manufacturing sector has added 200 jobs, reaching a total of 6,600. As a point of comparison, though, one third of the county’s employment base was in manufacturing in the 1970s. Manufacturing only accounts for about one-sixth of the work force today, according to Bailey.
Mining, logging and construction dropped by 100 jobs in the last year, to 3,100. That’s less than half the number of timber jobs in the county in the late 1970s — 6,400 — according to Bailey. The number of public sector jobs today — 6,800 — now exceeds the number of timber workers in the industry’s heyday here.
Employment Security reported that about 3,100 people in the county were unemployed last month, 100 fewer than a year earlier.