Friday, August 7, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

- Paul Leonard can be contacted at

Unemployed workers react to today's jobs report

It’s hard to find a lot of optimism these days at the Southwest Washington WorkSource Employment Center on East Mill Plain in Vancouver. Outside, cars packed the center’s parking lot. Job seekers milled about, talking about job prospects – and an uncertain future.

Despite today’s promising jobs report, those prospects and that future still seem hazy for many of the region’s growing ranks of unemployed.

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national economy shed 247,000 jobs last month – far fewer than the 320,000 most economists anticipated. The national employment rate dropped one-tenth of a percent, from 9.5 in June to 9.4 in July, ending a 15-month streak of increases.

That’s good news, right?

Well, yes and no. Not included in last month’s employment numbers were 709,000 workers who gave up looking for work during the four-week period surveyed by the U.S. government.

But the decline in overall job losses in July was a promising sign, according to Paul Winters, president of Winters and Associates, Inc., a Vancouver-based business consulting firm.

Last month’s workforce reduction was about half the average for November through April, with about 645,000 jobs shed nationally each month. Local job numbers for July have not yet been released. “If the rate of decline continues to diminish, I think it won’t be long before we’re in positive territory,” Winters said.

Already some sectors are seeing signs of recovery, including the local residential housing sector, according to Winters. But he expected the economic pain to persist for many.

“Most people don’t relate to numbers,” he said. “They either have a job or they haven’t. And for those who don’t have a job, there’s still going to be a lot of suffering out there.”

Don’t bother spreading that news at the WorkSource on Mill Plain.