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Posted on Mar 5, 2015

County’s job growth best in 7 years

Nonfarm job growth in Grant County this past year was the best since 2007, a regional labor economist reported.

In fact, the 3.1-percent average annual growth rate during 2014, which equates to 850 new nonfarm jobs, was a little more robust than the state’s 2.8 percent pace of growth, said Don Meseck of the Washington State Employment Security Department.

“You can safely say we ended the year in the right direction,” Meseck said.

Speaking before a small crowd at Big Bend Community College, Meseck gave an economic update of both Grant and Adams counties. In his role as a regional labor economist, Meseck serves seven counties — Grant, Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Okanogan and Yakima counties. The event was hosted by the Grant County Economic Development Council.

Meseck reported that the Grant County economy has registered year-over-year nonfarm employment increases for the past 27 months, from October 2012 through December 2014.

Many of those new jobs have come in the wholesale trade sector, now the fifth-largest employment sector in Grant County when measured by wages.

Wholesale trade  includes three subsectors — merchant wholesalers of durable goods, merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods and wholesale electronic markets.

The wholesale electronic markets includes server farms.

Wage growth in wholesale trade has skyrocketed in Grant County, from $32.6 million in 2004 to $75 million in 2013 – a 129.7 percent jump in payroll, Meseck said.

“This sharp increase in wages paid propelled wholesale trade from the No. 7 ranking to the No. 5 position in 2013,” Meseck said.

One of the main subsectors driving this advance in wages was the wholesale electronic markets subsector, Meseck said.

In 2004, this subsector had five firms, an average annual employment of seven and a total payroll of $227,597, Meseck said. In 2013, this subsector was comprised of 25 firms, an average annual employment of 145 people and a total payroll of $9.3 million, he said.

On the flip side, transportation, warehousing and private utilities averaged 40 fewer jobs in 2014 than in 2013, most likely as trucking and warehouse firms felt the pinch of the West Coast port slowdown in the last half of the year, Meseck said.

In more good news, the state’s annual average unemployment rate declined one percentage point between 2013 and 2014, from 7 percent to 6 percent, indicating an improving statewide economy, Meseck said.

In 2014, Grant County had an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent. County unemployment rates were in the 5 percent to 7 percent range from 2005 to 2008, which is prior to when the effects of the recession began to be felt in the state, Meseck said. From 2009 to 2013, those county rates lingered in the 8 percent to 10 percent range.

So the bottom line is that the average annual unemployment rates in the county and in the state declined for the past four consecutive years, which is good economic news for Grant County and the state, Meseck said.

There were 37,192 jobs in Grant County in 2013. More than two-thirds of  jobs were in five industries: agriculture (10,041), local government (6,498), manufacturing (4,587), retail trade (3,208), and accommodation and food services (2,123).

In 2013, the Grant County labor market also generated $1.3 billion in wages. The average annual wage in Grant County was $35,063. Statewide, the average annual wage in 2013 was $53,030, Meseck said.


— By Jill FitzSimmons,

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