Data released Tuesday by state officials show jobs in Yakima County continuing to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. They also showed a 10-year trend of more agricultural employment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage program tracks annual agricultural and non-agricultural employment and wages in counties across Washington, said Don Meseck, regional labor economist with the state’s Employment Security Department.
Revised annual QCEW data for calendar year 2020 became available this fall, and it shows that Yakima County’s agricultural jobs increased from 23,825 in 2010 to 30,767 in 2020, an increase of 6,942 jobs, or 29.1%, Meseck reported.
Put another way, in 2010, Yakima County’s agricultural industry accounted for 23.8% of total QCEW jobs, which are covered by the Washington State Employment Security Act. In 2020, agricultural jobs in Yakima County accounted for 27.8% of these jobs.
Those same years saw the county’s agricultural payroll more than double, going from $520 million in 2010 to $1.1 billion in 2020, an increase of $580 million in payroll, or 110%, Meseck reported. Agriculture’s share of the county’s overall wages increased from 16.5 to 22.5% between 2010 and 2020.
“In this most recent 10-year time frame, the agricultural industry, in terms of employment and especially in terms of payroll, has become more influential in the Yakima County economy,” Meseck noted in his November report of county job statistics.
“Although agriculture is still a seasonal industry in Yakima County, anecdotal evidence indicates that relatively more agricultural workers are being hired into full-time, year-round positions, with fewer hires into part-time, seasonal jobs,” he added. “This may help account for the 6% rise in agricultural share of total covered wages between 2010 (16.5%) and 2020 (22.5%).”
Other highlights of Tuesday’s jobs report include a rebound in nonfarm industry employment between October 2020 and October of this year, rising from 83,600 jobs one year ago to 87,100 in 2021.
Much of this rebound was in leisure and hospitality businesses such as hotels, restaurants/drinking establishments and amusement and recreation services. Yakima County saw a strong 18.2% upturn over the past year as employment increased from 6,600 to 7,800 jobs in this sector, Meseck reported. That sector was hard-hit by the pandemic in 2020.
Those 7,800 jobs are still 700 jobs, or 8.2%, below the 8,500 leisure and hospitality jobs tallied in Yakima County in October 2019.
Both the state and county have enjoyed growth year-over-year since June. For example, in October 2021 there were 135,356 Yakima County residents in the labor force, compared to 128,131 in October 2020, a 5.6% increase.
This recent positive trend follows 12 consecutive months, from June 2020 through May 2021, of year-over-year declines in the local labor force due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Meseck reported.
Yakima County’s unemployment rate showed similar improvement over the past year, dropping from 6.5 to 4.5% between October 2020 and October 2021.
A complete list of Yakima County jobs data is available at the Employment Security Department’s website.