WENATCHEE — The unemployment rate in Chelan and Douglas counties dropped to 5.9% in March, compared to 6.6% last year. But we're still down 1,600 jobs.

The jobless rate alone doesn’t signal a big step forward for the economy, but it’s a good sign, said state regional economist Don Meseck in his Labor Area Summary Report released Friday. The report updates the Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area based on state employment numbers released April 20.

The region saw an increase in its labor force and fewer people out of work in March, compared to the previous year, but the area is still down 1,600 jobs overall compared to March 2020.

“The loss rate this March was the lowest since the start of COVID-19-related layoffs in April 2020 — a bit of good news for the local economy,” Meseck said.

All industry employment sectors reported either flat or more jobs in March compared to February, a boost of 1,481 jobs total. In year-over-year comparisons, this March, retail trade grew by 100 jobs, to 6,300 total, the only industry sector to add jobs.

In other sectors, job losses slowed. Construction jobs, one of the leading economic drivers, were even, providing about 2,800 jobs both this March and last March.

Leisure and hospitality continues to be hard hit from pandemic-related layoffs, down 13.1% (800 jobs) this March compared to March 2020.

‘The common thread here — although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe job losses ... the trend is moving in the right direction,” Meseck said.

Nevonne McDaniels: (509) 664-7151

mcdaniels@wenatcheeworld.com