Unemployment drops to 5.8% in Douglas County

County’s average wage shows nation’s second-largest increase


Douglas County’s unemployment rate has dipped to 5.8 percent, the lowest it has been since the conclusion of the fourth quarter in 2008.

The number comes as great news for the county, which just released its 2013 first-quarter data days after the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put out its year-to-year statistics that showed Douglas County as having the seventh-largest increase in employment from the end of 2011 to the end of 2012, out of the 328 largest counties in the U.S.  

Douglas County increased its total number of jobs to 98,500, up 5,000 from a year ago, a 5.1 percent increase. The study also showed the county as second in average weekly wage increase of the 328 counties — which account for 71.3 percent of all jobs and 77 percent of all wages in the country.

Leading the way in weekly wage increase was California’s San Mateo County, which saw a 107.3 percent bump, vaulting from $1,563 per week per person to $3,240. Douglas County workers saw an average increase of 48 percent, increasing from $1,075 per week in 2011 to $1,591 in 2012. Wages for the No. 3 locale, Virginia Beach, climbed only 13.3 percent.

Yet while the $516 increase appears to be an astounding one, according to Douglas County spokeswoman Wendy Holmes, it is skewed by the fact that wages increased 362 percent for the industry of “management of companies and enterprises.”

“When you remove that group, wages in Douglas County are only up 7.9 percent,” Holmes said, pointing to the other 18 industries that were weighed.

Still, that is a positive sign for a county that between the fourth quarters in 2010 and 2011 ranked No. 318 with an 8.6 decrease in wages, all industries considered. The county only had three industries that were down, and with the addition of 5,000 new jobs there is a lot to be pleased about, said Douglas County Commissioner Jill Repella.

“I would say it is because of two things,” Repella said. “It says that businesses that are already here are doing well enough to start giving people salary increases. It is also attributable to the type of businesses that have been choosing to come here. We have a lot of corporations and headquarters coming here, which brings in higher salaries.”

Repella views the way in which the county altered how it did business once the recession hit as a driving factor in why the county is doing so well today.

“Four years ago, we knew we were facing a very, very different time in the history of Douglas County,” she said. “We had to change how we interacted with the business community and really create a very business-friendly culture.”

The result, she said, has created an “upward spiral” that has continuously helped land large corporation such as Visa USA Inc., Redwood Trust and Charles Schwab, all of which don’t even factor into the recent data as they are still on the way in.

“So much of it is about the attitude,” Repella said. “When there is a government jurisdiction that is difficult to work with, businesses tell each other, word gets out, and that jurisdiction gets a bad reputation.

“When you have a government jurisdiction that is great to work with, they share that with each other as well, and that positive reputation pays off. It is rare, from what all these businesses tell me; it is shocking that it’s rare, but it is rare.”

Whether it is speeding up the permit process or simply listening to the needs and desires of prospective companies, Repella said the county is doing everything it can to bring business in and keep that pro-business momentum going.

“We are in a very healthy position,” she said. “But what really matters to me is that people can provide for their families. That’s what all this data means. You can look at all the numbers and you can beat yourself in the chest, but knowing that people are doing well, that’s really what matters in the end.”


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