Island County job market bounces back

The job market is exceeding pre-pandemic levels despite inflation and fear of recession.

The job market in Island County is exceeding pre-pandemic levels, despite the state’s layoffs in the tech sector, inflation and fear of recession.

Washington’s Employment Security Department reports that the number of jobs in October 2022 was 17,470, an increase of 140 jobs over October 2019.

“This is an important month from that standpoint,” said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, regional labor economist at the Employment Security Department.

She acknowledged that this is only a slight increase and the number of jobs was taken from a sample of employers. Numbers could change after more information is gathered and the data is revised next month.

Furthermore, the unemployment rate in the county was 4.2% in October, compared to 4.6% in October of 2019.

Island County has a slightly higher unemployment rate than the state. Washington’s average unemployment rate in October was 3.7%, a small increase from 3.5% in September.

The state gained an additional 5,400 jobs from September to October but suffered a significant loss in the tech industry.

“Preliminary estimates show a drop of 5,900 jobs in information – a sector that contains many information technology jobs and is often used as a surrogate measure for ‘tech’ employment,” Vance-Sherman wrote in a statement.

This job loss is causing alarm; The Seattle Times reported that it is one of the sector’s largest monthly declines in state history.

Vance-Sherman emphasized that one data point does not make a trend. She attributes the loss as a result of employment gains in the tech sector during the pandemic, when the world was relying more on software that made telecommuting possible, as well as online ordering, telemedicine, etc. The need for these services have lessened since the height of the pandemic.

Island County only saw 10 job losses in the information sector, which Vance-Sherman described as a “relatively small drop but something to be watching.” She said tech losses could impact Island County due to the fact that some residents are employed off-island.

Overall, Island County’s job market remains strong. Compared to October 2021, the number of people counted as employed increased by 311 and the number of people counted as unemployed or actively seeking work went down by 136. Island County’s civilian labor force was estimated at 37,084, up 0.5% compared to last year.

From September to August, leisure and hospitality saw the greatest loss of 160 jobs which makes sense for the seasonal nature of the sector. The largest employment gains were observed in the government sector with an increase of 210 jobs.

Compared to last year, most industries detailed in the report added jobs. The largest employment gains were in the construction sector with an additional 120 jobs.

Vance-Sherman said that national wages have been on the rise, but generally haven’t kept up with inflation.

The Seattle-area consumer price index, a measure of inflation, is up 8.9% compared to a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers are only paying about 5% more in wages.

Despite everything, the county’s unemployment rate remains low.

“We are hearing a lot of uncertainty and concern about what’s going to happen with the tech sector and when a recession is going to arrive, but for right now, when I’m looking at the labor force numbers, I’m still seeing a very strong labor market,” Vance-Sherman said.