PSU Economic report says Coos County lost 1,000 jobs in June


August 10, 2011
COOS COUNTY—As talk of the U.S. economy slipping into another recession persists, Coos County was hit with more bad economic news. The North Country Economic Index, a monthly report produced by Plymouth State University, said the northern most county lost 1,000 jobs between May and June, more than 5 percent of its employed workers. Coos County's losses make nearly one-half the total jobs lost in the entire state.

This is particularly staggering new because spring usually brings good news to the employment market.

Typically, the "late spring brings relief or a shot in the arm because of tourism and construction (jobs)" said Mark Belanger, who runs the most northern Employment Security office in Berlin, "but this time we didn't see that. It's the flattest job market ever – hands down." Belanger has worked at this office for 18 years.

State Employment Security numbers don't exactly match this poor news. Their June report shows a slight increase in employed people in Coos County -- 14,120 people in May and 14,560 in June, an increase of 440 people. Daniel Lee, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Plymouth State University, said his number were "seasonally adjusted" to factor in the highs and lows.

"The bottom line here," Lee said in an e-mail exchange "… is the estimated loss in the county makes up whooping nearly 50 percent of the total estimated loss in the State. This is highly likely to be a result of the monthly volatility in the data. However, it's true that there is a clear diverging pattern in the labor markets between the (Coos) County and the State."

Lee pointed to the year-over-year change in the number of jobs in the Coos County and in the State. "The number of jobs in the (Coos) County," he said, " has been in decline since the early 2000s, regardless of the business cycles we've seen in the State and the country.

Employment decline is not the only problem. Four out of five of the key indicators were down on a monthly year-over-year basis for the first time since the recession hit. "In June, the Coos economy set a new low," wrote Lee. "From May to June the manufacturing sector contracted; industrial electricity sales fell down from prior year for the first time since March 2010. The rebounding hospitality sector struggled as well; average Saturday traffic counts had fallen at a faster clip for the last four months, while the year-over-year growth rate of estimated rooms and meals revenue edged down three months in a row."

From May to June, the number of employed people in Coos County declined from 14,879 to 13,897. These numbers do not include the rosier news of the sale and reopening of the Gorham mill.

"It remains to be seen," Lee wrote, "whether this is only a temporary statistical fluke."

The North Country Economic Index is available on-line at www.plymouth.edu/north-country-economic-index.

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