CLARK COUNTY, WA-Clark County’s unemployment rate reached its highest level in six year in August. Newly released state figures put the county’s unemployment rate in August at 5.1%, up from July’s 4.4% and up substantially from 3.9% in August 1999. An estimated 9,000 people are looking for work in the county, compared with 7,100 a year ago.

The August rate is the highest since March 1994, according to Scott Bailey, labor analyst with the Washington State Department of Employment Security. A higher jobless rate translates to less confidence in the local economy, which can further the slowing, he says.

Earlier this year, Freightliner announced plans to lay off 770 employees in October and reduce its Portland production in the face of declining demand for its large trucks. Some of those layoffs have come early, according to the state.

Overall, though, job growth in the county for the past 12 months remains slightly on the plus side. Resident employment reached 115,200 in August, up 2,200 jobs or 1.9% from a year ago, thanks to increases in electronics manufacturing, communications, retailing, social services and government.

Looking forward, the state says September numbers will show some overall nonfarm employment growth because of new jobs tied to Consolidated Freightways Corp. moving its headquarters to Vancouver.

Washington as a whole is also showing weakness based on just released August numbers. The state’s unemployment rate at 4.8% moved higher in August from July, the first increase during August in 20 years. Last year the statewide rate was 4.4%. Nationally, the unemployment rate also moved higher to 4.1%.

Oregon’s unemployment rate in August was 5.9%, up from 5.3% a year ago.

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