Saturday, May 25, 2024

Wenatchee MSA experiences strong job growth amidst rising unemployment

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WENATCHEE - The Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area, comprising Chelan and Douglas counties in Washington state, saw impressive job growth between March 2023 and March 2024 despite an uptick in the unemployment rate, according to a comprehensive Labor Area Summary report authored by Donald W. Meseck, Regional Labor Economist for the Employment Security Department.

As detailed in Meseck's report, nonfarm employment in the Wenatchee MSA surged by 1,900 jobs, or 4.0%, from March 2023 to March 2024, significantly outperforming the statewide growth rate of 1.6% during the same period. This marks an impressive 36 consecutive months of year-over-year job gains for the MSA.

However, the report also reveals that the unemployment rate in the Wenatchee MSA rose from 4.9% in March 2023 to 5.8% in March 2024, as the number of unemployed residents grew by 580. Interestingly, this increase in unemployment coincided with an expansion of the civilian labor force by 337 people over the year.

Meseck's analysis shows that job gains were widespread across most major industries, with the mining, logging, and construction sector spearheading the growth with an impressive 11.4% increase. Other notable sectors experiencing strong growth include leisure and hospitality (9.2%) and trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities (7.2%). The retail trade sector was the sole exception, shedding 200 jobs during the period.

The Labor Area Summary report also sheds light on the evolving role of agriculture in the local economy. While still a cornerstone of the region, agriculture's share of total employment and wages has diminished over the past decade in both Chelan and Douglas counties. Meseck suggests that factors such as automation, the shift from seasonal to year-round positions, and the increased utilization of H-2A agricultural labor may have contributed to this decline.

Despite the mixed economic signals, Meseck's report underscores the Wenatchee MSA's robust job growth, showcasing the resilience and adaptability of the local economy as it continues to bounce back from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the region navigates the complex interplay of economic forces, the Employment Security Department remains committed to providing timely and insightful analysis to support informed decision-making and foster sustainable growth.

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