Local unemployment ends year at 6.7%
Columbia County's unemployment rate has declined in recent months, along with the overall state rate.
The county's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7% in December 2020, according to data from the Oregon Employment Department. The state's rate was 6.4% in the same period.
At its peak last year, the county's unemployment rate had been more than double current rates.
In December 2020, seasonally adjusted non-farm payroll employment in Columbia County fell by 40 to 10,910. The state uses seasonally adjusted numbers to reflect normal ebbs and flows in employment throughout the year. Losing 100 jobs is normal for the month, the Oregon Employment Department said, but the county lost 140 jobs.
Construction lost 50 jobs between November and December.
From December 2019 to December 2020, the county lost 930 non-farm payroll jobs. More than a third of those jobs were in local education. Leisure and hospitality also represented more than a third of lost jobs.
Retail trade and state government were among the few categories to gain jobs in the past year.
Although the county unemployment rates include Columbia County residents regardless of which county they work in, the job counts for nonfarm payroll employment and various industries only reflects the jobs in the county.
In December, 22,763 Columbia County residents were employed. But the county only had 10,900 non-farm payroll jobs.
According to census data, 73% of Columbia County's workforce commutes outside the county for work. Additionally, 41% of jobs in Columbia County are held by people who commute from outside the county.
The unemployment rates also don't reflect reduced hours. Full- and part-time employees are counted as employed in the state's data, but some businesses have avoided layoffs only through furloughs or scheduling employees for fewer shifts.
In the first three months of 2020, unemployment was 3.4% statewide and 4.1% in Columbia County. For both county and state, unemployment in late 2019 and early 2020 was the lowest it had been since at least 1990, the earliest year for which the state has published county data.
By April 2020, Columbia County's unemployment rate was 15%, even higher than during the recession or its aftermath.
The reported unemployment rate for March is far lower than reality. Unemployment rates are based on the week that includes the 12th day of the month, which would have been March 8 to March 14, 2020. Gov. Kate Brown ordered schools closed effective the next Monday, March 16; restaurants and bars were ordered closed the next day.
Between April and November, the unemployment rate locally and statewide steadily decreased. The rate increased somewhat in December.
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