2004 Clallam jobless rate could be lowest in 30 years

Peninsula News Network


There’s still half a year to go, but leaders of local economic development efforts believe Clallam County’s jobless rate might end up hitting the lowest mark in 3 decades in 2004.

So far this year, Clallam County’s unemployment rate has continued to improve, dropping from a high of just over 7% in April to 5.8% percent in April, with that decreasing trend expected to continue when the May report is released in a few days.

Clallam County Economic Development Council Executive Director Jim Haguewood says the EDC has been monitoring the trends through its Clallam netWorks program, and there’s a belief that the average jobless rate for the year could end up being the lowest since the 1970s.

Haguewood says the improvement in Clallam County’s employment picture comes from a number of developments, mainly tied to the diversity of local economic development in recent years. While there has been some improvement in traditional industries like timber, there’s also been expansion of the marine and technology trades. Just as importantly, Haguewood says local government officials have been doing more to embrace the need for that economic diversity, encouraging a variety of development, and supporting that with infrastructure such as fiber optics and telecommunications.

One of the primary objectives of the Clallam netWorks program has been to not just add now jobs, but add higher paying jobs to the local economy.

Clallam taken off "distressed counties" list

Proof of the county’s economic improvement recently came when the State of Washington dropped Clallam County from the list of “distressed timber counties”.

Back in the early and mid 1990s, when the timber industry was reeling from the court battles over protection for the Northern spotted owl, the state declared several counties, including Clallam and those on the Peninsula, as “economically distressed”. That determination opened the door for a variety of aid programs, grants and low interest loans through the state and federal government. The “Distressed Area List” includes all counties with a three-year average unemployment rate “equal or greater than 120% of the statewide average unemployment rate”. There were 19 counties on the list last year, but the new list issued this spring has that number down to 16, and Clallam County is among those dropped from the list for 2004. Mason and Douglas Counties also dropped from the list. Of the 39 counties in the state, Clallam County improved from 29th on the unemployment list in 2002 to 18th this year. There were an additional 660 jobs reported by this last January.

The decision to drop the “distressed” designation does hurt a bit because it means Clallam County will no longer be eligible for some assistance programs. But EDC leaders say it’s also a good development because the county no longer has a negative economic designation when being discussed by outside government officials and businesses.



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