2020 is Not Quite in the Rearview Mirror

February 10, 2021

WorkForce Central and the WorkSource Pierce system were tested as never before during 2020. As we move deeper into 2021, we know the pandemic is still with us. Data from 2020 helps summarize its impacts and shows us where we are gaining traction against its economic toll.

A Swift Rise in Unemployment and a Fragile Recovery

In April 2020, we saw the unemployment rate spike to nearly 19%. This dropped to about 7% in October, with a slight uptick to 7.6% by December when 32,771 Pierce County residents were reported unemployed. The December rate was three percentage points higher than the previous year’s rate.

Shifting Industry Prospects

The pandemic brought significant changes in prospects for prominent industries in Pierce County. In November 2019, retail sales jobs topped the chart at 815 postings. One year later, the greatest number of openings are jobs for stockers and order fillers (699 postings), a reflection of the significant increase in online ordering. The healthcare and social assistance industries remain strong, employing 18% of Pierce County residents. Importantly, while Amazon and other transportation and distribution companies may currently have the highest number of job postings, those jobs only represent 6.5% of overall employment in Pierce County.

Individualized Help for Those Who Need It Most

In 2020, WorkSource Pierce pivoted to providing virtual support for job seekers and continued helping workers retrain and pursue new opportunities. Two areas of focus within the WorkSource System, namely WIOA Dislocated Workers and Business Solutions, provide a window into these efforts.

The WIOA Dislocated Workers program supports workers who are unlikely to be re-employed in their previous occupations. These individuals need to find new careers, fit past experience into new roles, and get the training and credentials required for their new profession. In the first 11 months of 2020, WorkSource Pierce provided individualized support to more than 1,000 dislocated workers. Of these, more than a third received specialized training.

Business Solutions held 22 virtual hiring events in 2020 and a virtual JobFest for 275 young adults. Webinars covering topics from unemployment to retraining were held for nearly 2,000 recently laid-off employees. These Layoff Assistance Sessions are now offered weekly and are open to anyone from the community interested in learning more about the supports and resources available for individuals facing unemployment.

Pierce County Recovery Corps

2020 brought new opportunities along with challenges. In response to the pandemic, WorkForce Central partnered with Pierce County, Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region, and other community organizations and businesses to pilot the Pierce County Recovery Corps—a program for young adults ages 16-25 to serve their community during the recovery. Participants were paid to work 20 hours per week for a minimum of four weeks. This program employed 118 young adults at over 40 businesses and organizations throughout Pierce County and paved the way for future partnerships focused on paid work experience opportunities in the public and non-profit sectors.

Looking Ahead

2020 accelerated change for all of us. We continue to ramp up virtual offerings while remaining mindful and vigilant in our commitment to address digital access barriers. We continue to seek out innovative partnerships, like Recovery Corps, as we reimagine and create relevant opportunities for job seekers and businesses in this shifting economy. While we face many of the same conditions we did in 2020, we are now better prepared to meet the challenges they bring.

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