A clearer picture of how many people are out of work in Washington state is starting to emerge.
The figures are sobering. Data released from Washington state’s Employment Security Department show that the state lost 527,000 jobs last month.
The county with the highest unemployment rate in April is Snohomish, with 20.2 percent. Grays Harbor is second at 19.4 percent.
“We had the 2008 recession, 2009. Things got bad in 2010, early 2010, but nothing like 19.4 percent. That's the highest unemployment rate we've had in 30 years in the county,” said Jim Fleming, a regional economist for the state.
This is the highest unemployment rate for Grays Harbor County since the state changed how it calculated unemployment figures 30 years ago.
Crystal Dingler, mayor of Ocean Shores, said her town’s small businesses are really struggling to survive.
“Not many of our businesses received any of the funds that were being allocated and they're very concerned," Dingler said. "They're little mom and pop businesses. They have one to 12 or 14 employees.”
The economic fallout from the state’s orders to shut down is a lot to bear for a part of the state that has had just a handful of COVID-19 cases and no deaths. But Dingler pointed out that closing the economy prevented the virus from spreading in Grays Harbor and is now allowing the county to open up earlier than other areas of the state, where new cases are still being reported.
Grays Harbor is now in Phase 2 of reopening. Dingler is hopeful that the economic picture for her community will turn around. Hotels, shops and restaurants in Ocean Shores are seeing their first customers in months.
Over the long Memorial Day weekend, Ocean Shores saw modest crowds. This beach town’s economy relies on tourism. Dingler is working on ways to reduce lines at public bathrooms and shops so people can socially distance.
“We’re also looking at hand sanitizers being more available," Dingler said. "We had hoped to get them in some of the portable restrooms. We want to do everything we can because it’s our lifeblood, having tourism.”
While some beach communities on the East Coast of the U.S. are telling outsiders to stay away, the message from Ocean Shores is “we’re ready to have you vacation here when you feel safe enough to make the trip.”