Pandemic hit region hardest in leisure, hospitality, government sectors

For the Basin Business Journal | July 1, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — While 2020 was hard on the economies of counties in central Washington, the seven-county region did better than the state as a whole percentage-wise.

Don Meseck, regional labor economist for the Washington Department of Employment Security, presented a look at how the region fared in 2020 during the department’s 2021 annual symposium June 16. The region includes Grant, Adams, Okanogan, Douglas, Chelan, Yakima and Kittitas counties.

All counties in the region lost jobs when 2020 is compared with 2019. Grant County had the lowest job loss rate in the region, Meseck said, while Kittitas County had the highest. The leisure and hospitality and government (mostly education) sectors accounted for most of the job losses in the region.

All seven experienced substantial economic improvement when April 2021 is compared with April 2020. April 2020 was the first full month of restrictions on business and movement imposed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant County’s construction and professional and business services sectors both expanded in 2020, offsetting job losses in other categories. Annual average nonfarm unemployment rose from 6.8% in 2019 to 8.8% in 2020. Unemployment in Grant County dropped from 13.1% in April 2019 to 7.6% in April 2020.

Adams County saw the second-slowest job loss rate in the region. Average annual nonfarm unemployment in Adams County rose from 5.6% in 2019 to 7.3% in 2020. Unemployment was 14.8% in April 2020 and dropped to 8.1% in April 2021.

Yakima County saw job losses in the manufacturing, leisure and hospitality and local government sectors. Average annual nonfarm unemployment in Yakima County rose from 7% in 2019 to 9.7% in 2020. But the year over year comparison of April 2020 to April 2021 showed a substantial drop in unemployment. Unemployment went from 14.8% in April 2020 to 8.1% in April 2021.

In Okanogan County, average annual unemployment was 9.1% in 2020, compared with 6.7% in 2019. Unemployment dropped from 15% in April 2020 to 7.7% in April 2021.

In Chelan and Douglas counties making up the Wenatchee Labor Market, average annual nonfarm unemployment went from 5.1% in 2019 to 8.4% in 2020.

Kittitas County was the hardest-hit by the pandemic in the region, seeing the largest job loss rate. The average annual nonfarm unemployment rate in Kittitas County was 9.1% in 2020, compared to 5.4% in 2019. The unemployment rate dropped from 17.1% in April 2020 to 7% in April 2021.