Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Wenatchee area economy shows resilience amidst national trends


WENATCHEE - In a report compiled by Donald W. Meseck, Regional Labor Economist for the Washington State Employment Security Department, the economic landscape of the Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has shown promising trends, even as the nation grapples with fluctuating employment figures and workforce dynamics. The analysis, based on year-over-year data from September 2022 to September 2023 and average annual changes between 2021 and 2022, provides valuable insights into the local economy.

Declining unemployment rates

Washington State witnessed a remarkable decline in unemployment rates, with the average annual rate dropping from 5.2 percent in 2021 to 4.2 percent in 2022. Furthermore, the monthly unemployment rate in the state decreased from 4.0 percent in September 2022 to 3.6 percent in September 2023. Within the Wenatchee MSA, the average annual unemployment rate fell from 5.5 percent to 5.0 percent between 2021 and 2022. In an unprecedented achievement, September 2023 saw the lowest September unemployment rate since electronic record-keeping began in 1990, at just 3.2 percent.

Steady nonfarm employment growth

Nonfarm employment in Washington experienced robust growth, adding 55,300 jobs and growing by 1.5 percent between September 2022 and September 2023, reaching 3,625,800 jobs. While this growth is a positive sign, it's worth noting that job growth rates have been slowing over the past year.

In the Wenatchee MSA, the local economy added 2,000 jobs during 2022, reflecting a 4.3 percent increase. However, it was slightly less robust than the state's 4.7 percent growth rate between 2021 and 2022. Despite this, the Wenatchee MSA's nonfarm market showed growth for 28 months, starting in April 2021 and continuing through July 2023, before experiencing a slight contraction in August and September 2023.

Labor force and unemployment

The Civilian Labor Force in Washington State increased by 91,636 residents between 2021 and 2022, a 2.4 percent upturn. The state's labor force continued to expand for 25 consecutive months from September 2021 through September 2023. In contrast, the Wenatchee MSA's local labor force expanded for 11 months, from July 2022 to May 2023, before declining over the following four months. Despite this reduction, the number of unemployed residents in the Wenatchee MSA decreased by 19.4 percent year-over-year, contributing to a substantial drop in the unemployment rate from 3.8 percent in September 2022 to 3.2 percent in September 2023.

Industry-specific trends

In the construction sector, both locally and statewide, employment exhibited fluctuating patterns. Construction employment in the Wenatchee MSA expanded or stagnated from November 2020 through July 2023 before contracting in August and September 2023. Between September 2022 and September 2023, the sector experienced a slight loss of 100 jobs, a decrease of 2.8 percent.

Retail trade employment in the Wenatchee MSA decreased by 3.0 percent between September 2022 and September 2023, reflecting national trends. Washington's retailers saw employment decline by 0.9 percent, driven in part by lower employment levels in furniture and home furnishings stores and building material and garden supply stores.

The combined education and health services category in the Wenatchee MSA, predominantly driven by health services, showed significant stability and growth. Year over year, employment in this category increased by 3.8 percent between September 2022 and September 2023. Statewide, this industry expanded by 4.3 percent during the same period.

Agricultural employment and production

Agricultural employment in Chelan County decreased by 20.5 percent between 2012 and 2022, resulting in a loss of 1,979 jobs. Despite this decline, total covered employment increased by 10.4 percent during the same period. The agricultural industry's share of total covered employment decreased from 24.5 percent to 17.6 percent over the decade.

In Douglas County, agricultural employment experienced a sharp decline of 24.8 percent between 2012 and 2022, with a loss of 737 jobs. Similar to Chelan County, total covered employment increased by 14.8 percent. The agricultural industry's share of total covered employment in Douglas County fell from 27.6 percent to 18.1 percent over the same period.

While agriculture remains a crucial aspect of the local economy in both counties, these trends highlight a shift in the employment landscape, potentially influenced by automation, changes in seasonal job dynamics, and the use of H-2A agricultural labor.

In summary, the Wenatchee MSA's economy has demonstrated resilience, despite fluctuations in national employment figures and shifting industry dynamics. The region continues to be a vital contributor to the state's economic landscape, with its unique strengths and challenges. The coming months will be crucial to monitor job market trends and the impact of these economic shifts on the local workforce.

Quick Read

The Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is showing promise amid national employment fluctuations. The state saw a notable drop in unemployment rates, reaching a record low of 3.2% in September 2023. In 2022, the MSA added 2,000 jobs, a 4.3% increase, although job growth rates slowed. Various industries experienced fluctuations, with construction and retail trade showing changes, while education and health services demonstrated stability. In agriculture, employment decreased, but total covered employment increased, reflecting shifting dynamics. Despite challenges, the Wenatchee MSA remains a vital part of the state's economy.



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