REGIONAL ECONOMIC OVERVIEW
Just when we thought COVID was starting to pull back, the Omicron variant made its presence known. It is still too early to suggest that this has affected the region’s economic recovery—we won’t likely know for certain until we get more job data. I remain hopeful that this latest spike in infections will not have too much of an impact, but only time will tell. To date, the region has recovered all but 51,000 of the 297,000 jobs that were lost due to the pandemic. Some of the region’s smaller counties, including Grays Harbor, Cowlitz, Thurston, San Juan, and Clallam, have seen a full job recovery. The most recent data (November) shows the regional unemployment rate at a very respectable 3.3%, which is below the pre-pandemic low of 3.7%. The lowest unemployment rates were in King and San Juan Counties, where 2.9% of the labor force was out of work. The highest rate was in Grays Harbor County, which registered 5.1%. I still expect to see a full job recovery by this summer. However, there is a growing labor shortage holding the area back. Hopefully, this will change, but some industry sectors—especially hospitality—continue to find it hard to attract workers.