COVID-19 may have long term impact on employment

Mitchell Roland, Senior Reporter

As the days get longer and the weather gets nicer, some students are beginning a search for a part-time job for the summer. However, finding employment in Ellensburg will likely be more difficult than past years, and it will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future, according to Molly Jones-Kerchner, the executive director of the Ellensburg Downtown Association.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the state has seen a drastic increase in unemployment numbers. According to the Washington Employment Security Department, the unemployment rate was 15.4% in April, which is up from 5.1% in March.

Jones-Kerchner said Ellensburg, much like the rest of the country and the state, is facing a tough economic climate due to the stay-at-home order.

“We’re not in a great place right now,” Jones-Kerchner said.

While the state begins to reopen under Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased reopening plan, Jones-Kerchner said it’s difficult to know the impact that the phased reopening plan will have on the economy. Jones-Kerchner said businesses all over Kittitas County are determining what the different phases will look like.

With businesses struggling and a high unemployment rate, many students may find it difficult to find a job. Jones-Kerchner said even if Kittitas County were to reach phase four and students were to return to campus by September, it’s tough to know what the job market will look like.

“It’s hard to predict that far out,” Jones-Kerchner said. “It really just depends on a lot of things.”

Jones-Kerchner said one thing is for certain: things will not go back to normal, even when Kittitas County reaches phase four. Jones-Kerchner said the job market is not as simple as students returning to Ellensburg.

“It’s not going to be the same as before,” Jones-Kerchner said.

Jones-Kerchner said COVID-19 will likely have a long-term impact on the entire county.

However, while it may be more difficult to find a job, Jones-Kerchner said it’s not impossible.

Jones-Kerchner said there are still things students can do to increase the likelihood of employment. First, she said, contact businesses, even if they don’t have an open job posting.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out directly,” Jones-Kerchner said. “Sending an email or making a call never hurts.”

Students should also keep looking. Even if you’re not hearing back from employers, it’s important to remain optimistic and searching continuously, Jones-Kerchner said.

“Stay positive and keep applying,” Jones-Kerchner said. “The cards are kind of stacked against you.”

Jones-Kerchner said a lot of people are struggling to find jobs right now. So, if students don’t get a call back they shouldn’t feel discouraged.

“If it’s challenging, it’s challenging for everybody,” Jones-Kerchner said.

Jones-Kerchner said it is also important to stay up to date on the news so students know about potential job opportunities as more businesses reopen.

“Things change daily, sometimes hourly,” Jones-Kerchner said. “It’s really easy to get incorrect info.”

Jones-Kerchner recommended visiting to find the latest information on things such as unemployment benefits and financial aid.