Workforce System Response to COVID-19 – May 5 Report

A Message from CEO Mark Mattke

We have experienced a lot of volatility in our labor market over the past 14 months but lately, we have seen a marked trend in the right direction as the number of people applying for and receiving unemployment benefits continues to decrease. Cheers to Phase 3! We received more good news yesterday when the Governor announced that Spokane County would remain in Phase 3 of the reopening plan and not roll back to higher levels of restrictions that would have negatively impacted many of our local businesses. Employers from our core industries – including healthcare, finance & insurance, and manufacturing – are hiring as well as some of those that were particularly hard hit by this recession like retail stores and accommodation and food services. The greater capacity for patrons at eating and drinking establishments and sports venues has helped fuel steady increases in the numbers of workers returning to jobs over the past two months. 

Hand in hand with this has been the increase in the numbers of people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and feeling more confident in returning to activities they have missed due to worries about exposure to COVID. Our economy is on pace for solid growth as we move into the summer months but vaccination rates and adhering to health protocols will continue to be significant drivers of our region’s progress and ability to sustain our economic recovery. Please stay safe, get vaccinated, and enjoy the spring weather!

We are stronger, together!

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Community Investment Dashboard

Resource tracking of the SWC’s investments in our community’s recovery.

Community Investment Dashboard

Labor Market Update

Unemployment Claims, Week Ending April 24 | Spokane County

Our area saw the lowest new initial claims for unemployment total since the beginning of the pandemic, with 665 initial claims (-10.5% from prior week). Another 104 (-18.1% from prior week) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims were filed, as well as 118 (-28.5% from prior week) Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims. These new lower levels of initial claims show that the amount of people who are becoming newly unemployed is dropping dramatically from levels seen months ago. It now sits closer to a normal level that would be expected with general churn in the labor market.

Total continued unemployment claims also dropped to 17,505 (-3.1% from prior week) across all three unemployment programs. While regular continued claims continue to steadily decrease, PUA continued claims have remained mostly level for months while PEUC claims have been increasing. This indicates that more than 45% of those who have currently filed an unemployment claim are considered long-term unemployed (unemployment for longer than 27 weeks).

Continued Claims by Type

    • Regular Continued Claims: 3,695 (-6.9% from prior week)
    • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Continued Claims: 5,854 (-2.0% from prior week)
    • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) Continued Claims: 7,956 (-1.9% from prior week)

Employment, March 2021 | Spokane County

The unemployment rate was reported at 6.3%, which was the same unemployment rate in March 2020. However, a significant difference is the number of people considered to be in the labor force, with nearly 14,000 fewer workers currently employed or unemployed and looking for work, as compared to the pre-pandemic levels.

The sharp decline in the labor force can be attributed to a number of factors such as retirements and workers exiting the labor force due to safety concerns. Adding to the leading cause for the labor force decline is that female workers, specifically mothers, have experienced the largest drop in labor force participation rate due to the pandemic. This can be attributed to the disproportionate rate at which family and child care burdens are placed on females. As schools move back to in-person instruction, it would be expected that many female workers will return to the labor force. But, the issue of child care affordability and availability also remains a major barrier to full employment.

March 2021 Spokane County Preliminary Employment
    • Total Civilian Labor Force: 249,141(263,070 in March 2020)
    • Total Employment: 233,462(246,439)
    • Total Unemployed: 15,679(16,631)
    • Unemployment Rate: 6.3%(6.3%)

Job Postings, April 2021 | Spokane County

New online job postings continued to increase in the month of April with 9,134 postings, an increase of 5.7% from the previous month. The pent-up demand in the economy is emerging from the heightened levels of new online job postings. However, with the current labor force totals significantly declined from pre-pandemic levels, labor shortages are being felt across the economy. This has led a number of businesses to attract new workers by raising starting wages and/or offer signing bonuses.

New Online Job Postings by Industry | April 2021

  • Healthcare & Social Assistance: 1,830 (new online job postings)
  • Retail Trade: 1,362
  • Finance & Insurance: 549
  • Accommodation & Food Services: 512
  • Manufacturing: 464

Food Insecurity, February 2021 | Spokane County

One of the most glaring inequities of the pandemic has been the issue of food insecurity. Throughout the pandemic, SNAP basic food assistance rates have increased dramatically. Spokane County now sits at approximately 92,400 people receiving basic food assistance in February 2021, which is more than 17.5% of the county’s total population. In January, the highest level of basic food assistance recipients was observed since the start of the pandemic, with approximately 93,900 individuals receiving food assistance.
See our WorkSource Spokane Campus updates below to learn how we’ve partnered with 2nd Harvest to help meet the food needs of our community.

WorkSource Campus Updates

Since our program year began in July of 2020, our dedicated professionals have provided over 36,000 virtual services to customers across our campus.
Below is a summary of projects and initiatives currently underway across our campus.

Expanded Services for Justice-Involved Community Members

The Spokane Resource Center (SRC) is providing more support to the justice-involved community through various initiatives and partnerships.
A new Peer Navigator position, in partnership with Spokane County and Career Path Services, will strengthen the connection from Spokane County Courthouse’s Intake and Release Center to the WorkSource Spokane campus by placing an SRC staff member onsite at the courthouse to provide SRC-based support, resources, and services to individuals who are booked and immediately released. These resources will be valuable to justice-involved individuals by connecting them to various ways to overcome the challenges to employment, housing, and personal growth. 
Pioneer Human Services’ Roadmap to Success course is available for in-person, appointment-based instruction at the SRC. The three-week job-readiness training program provides justice-involved individuals with the skills necessary to find and keep employment while maintaining healthy, productive lives.
SRC Employment Navigators are available to help guide the Roadmap to Success enrollment process.
Click here to connect our justice-involved community to the support, resources, and services available to help them achieve success.

Young Adults Own Their Education

Staff members at the Next Generation Zone continue to motivate young adults to achieve their educational goals. Attendance is high at our GED classroom due to our hybrid model that allows young adults to receive live instruction in-person or virtually through the Next Generation Zone GED Classroom website. Forty-five students have attended math and social studies classes, allowing them to take control of their education as they prepare for testing.
Earlier this year, our classroom was certified as a Pearson VUE testing site, which allows our students to test in the same location where they learn and study.
Since becoming a certified Pearson VUE testing site, the Next Generation Zone GED classroom has hosted 753 regular testers with approximately nine GEDs awarded per month. In total since July of 2020, 81 young adults have earned their GED with Next Generation Zone support.
Visit Next Generation Zone’s website to learn more about the impactful ways young adults can achieve their career and education goals.

"Caleb (GED Case Manager) really believed I could pass my last test (math). I was going to wait little bit, but he told me I was ready. I passed, and now I finally have my GED!"

-Next Generation Zone Customer

Grant Partnership with Second Harvest

Early in the pandemic, we saw an immediate and substantial increase in the need for food for area residents. Many people have sought food aid for the first time in their lives during this pandemic. At the same time, providers like Second Harvest had to cut back or suspend volunteer programs due to safety concerns around the virus. The Washington National Guard deployed across the state to help meet the staffing needs of local food banks, but more support was still needed. The SWC was excited to be one of the recipients of a statewide grant from the US Department of Labor to help address these gaps. This grant aimed to meet the staffing requirements of food banks to help distribute food resources to community members in need, and at the same time provide employment opportunities to people who had lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
WorkSource Spokane and Talent Solutions partnered with Second Harvest to assess their staffing needs and recruit participants to fill available positions with unemployed job seekers. This partnership has been extremely rewarding, and we’re excited to share Jason’s success story.

Let's Collaborate!

If you know a job seeker that just re-entered the workforce or you represent a business that has utilized our recruitment and retention services, please contact Victor Rapez-Betty, our Communications Manager, to begin storyboarding the success video, article, or social media post.

Access Spokane Job and Resource Fair Registration Open Now!CLICK HERE
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