A number of measures indicate Skagit County’s economy is continuing to improve, though economists note full recovery from COVID-19 impacts will take time.

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits is continuing to drop, according to statewide and county data.

Statewide, new regular unemployment claims dropped by 0.5% last week, and total claims in all unemployment categories dropped by about 2%, according to a Thursday news release from the state Employment Security Department.

Though Skagit County saw a 18% increase in new unemployment claims last week, the number of claims has fallen by about 51% since early May, according to the state’s data.

New unemployment claims in Skagit County are now 73% below what they were in May 2020 at the height of pandemic job losses, the state’s data shows.

In May, the county’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.8%, the lowest it has been since the pandemic began, according to nonseasonally adjusted figures released by the ESD last week.

The county’s unemployment rate in May 2020 was 14.5%. Pre-pandemic, the rate in May 2019 was 5%.

Skagit County added 600 jobs in May across non-farm industry sectors, according to the state data. The leisure and hospitality sector, hard hit by pandemic restrictions, added 200 jobs in May, but employment in that sector remains down 22% compared to 2019, according to ESD data.

With vaccinations increasing and businesses reopening, the demand for workers also has increased in recent months, with an influx of online job postings, according to Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the ESD.

As the state relaxed most COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, some businesses reported they did not have adequate staffing to return to normal operations.

In a monthly report released last week, Vance-Sherman noted it will take time for the supply of labor to catch up with the demand. She said workers continue to navigate challenges such as child care availability and health concerns as they return to work.

She said there also are other factors to consider in economic recovery.

“Constraints on the workforce differ by industry, occupation and location,” she wrote. “They also differ by race and ethnicity, gender, and education level. The pandemic opened up an already-existing need to consider fundamental questions regarding equity and accessibility.”

The state has reinstated the job search requirement — which had been suspended since the pandemic began — for those receiving unemployment insurance benefits. Unemployment claimants will need to start actively seeking work and documenting job search activities for the week beginning on Sunday.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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