The Odessa Record -

By Margie Hall
Executive Director, Lincoln County Economic Development Council 

Economic road forward looks positive

 

Last updated 2/11/2021 at 3:37pm



DAVENPORT – The board of directors for the Lincoln County Economic Development Council (EDC) recently met to discuss 2021 and the challenges it presents to local business and industry. Doug Tweedy, regional economist for the Employment Security Department, joined the meeting to provide 2020 workforce data that could inform their discussion. The board learned that after an exceptionally difficult year for local businesses, the road forward looks surprisingly positive.

Not all the news was good, of course. Lincoln County’s unemployment in 2020 was higher than typical. Approximately sixty more workers lost jobs and filed for unemployment in 2020 than in 2019. Over half of unemployment claims resulted from four clusters: Food prep and service; management; office and administrative support; and sales and sales-related. These clusters were affected by the pandemic, either by the state’s restrictions, the move to teleworking or increased online buying.

The positive news is that rural labor forces in Eastern Washington generally fared better in 2020 than urban labor forces. Lincoln County fared especially well. Tweedy shared that Lincoln County was the only rural county in Eastern Washington to see local jobs increase. Most of those jobs were in construction, utilities and transportation.

Another positive trend that Employment Security data revealed was that Lincoln County saw a net in-migration increase in population. As is characteristic of our aging populace, the county saw a natural decrease, with deaths outnumbering births. However, enough new people moved to Lincoln County to offset the natural decrease and increase the population. Data shows that more than half of those who moved to Lincoln County came from the west side of the state. Most were in the 26-35 age range.

Wealth also increased in tandem with the population rise, both in per capita income and median household income, Tweedy said. According to ESD data, earning increases were larger for the 50% of Lincoln County’s workforce that commutes outside the county for work.

Employment Security anticipates that telework and telehealth will be permanent trends and recommends that communication infrastructure be the top priority for all rural counties that want to experience growth. Fortunately, expanding broadband access is already a priority for the EDC.

 

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