Yakima County’s jobless rates remain at the lowest levels in decades.

Continuing 17 months of decline, unemployment in the county in August stood at the lowest rate in at least 32 years.

A newly released report shows the county’s jobless rate at 5.7% for last month, the lowest for that month since data began to be recorded electronically in 1990, said Don Meseck, regional labor economist with the state’s Employment Security Department.

The state enjoyed similar news on the jobs front, with an unemployment rate of 4.1% the lowest rate for August since statewide data began to be recorded electronically in 1976, according to state officials.

July’s Yakima County jobless rate of 4.5% also was the lowest for that month since 1990.

“Monthly unemployment rates have fallen, year over year, in each of the 17 months from April 2021 through August 2022 — good economic news,” Meseck said.

However, while the county’s unemployment rates are at record lows, they are still high compared to other counties in the state.

The labor economist highlighted three economic areas that have seen significant job growth in Yakima County: construction, private health care and social assistance, and the leisure and hospitality industry.

Year over year, construction employment has either stabilized or increased in each of the past 17 months, with 4,500 construction jobs in Yakima County reported in August, Meseck said.

Statewide, the number of construction jobs increased 6.2%, for a total of 243,000 jobs, with many of the gains among specialty trade contractors such as roofing, electrical, plumbing and painting or wall covering, he said.

Employment in private health care and social assistance in Yakima County increased for 11 straight months. That accounted for 17,200 jobs, up 500 jobs or 3% from a year earlier, Meseck said.

The social assistance category includes individual and family services, community food and housing organizations, vocational rehabilitation services and child day care services.

The county’s leisure and hospitality industry, (primarily hotels, eating and drinking places, and amusement and recreation services) was hit hard by COVID in 2019 and 2020 when 1,700 jobs, nearly 21, percent, of jobs were lost. But those jobs have bounced back, recording year-over-year job gains for the past 17 months, Meseck said.

“In fact, employment in this industry appears to be approaching that of pre-pandemic days,” he said. “The August 2022 reading of 8,700 jobs was 300 jobs and 3.6% greater than the 8,400 leisure and hospitality jobs tallied in August 2019.”

Not all of the news in the report was positive. The county’s unemployment remain high compared to other counties in the state.

Yakima County rates 30th among the state’s 39 counties for unemployment, joining Garfield and Stevens counties at 5.7%. King County had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.0% while Ferry County in northeast Washington had the highest unemployment rate at 8.2%. And the total number of employed and unemployed actively looking for work shrank from May through August 2022 when compared pre-COVID months.

For a complete monthly economic report for Washington state, visit esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/monthly-employment-report.

Contact Joel Donofrio at jdonofrio@yakimaherald.com.

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