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Idaho unemployment falls for 5th straight month

BOISE — The Idaho Department of Labor says the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December fell to 8.4 percent, the lowest level since September 2009.

The state’s unemployment rate has dropped for five straight months, and fell from 8.5 percent in November. The national unemployment rate for December was 8.5 percent, the Associated Press reported today.

The Labor Department says over 698,000 Idahoans were working in December — 13,000 more than in December 2010 — and the largest total since March 2009.  

Unemployment benefit payments totaled $31.5 million to 32,000 jobless workers in December. That total is 25 percent less than the $41.8 million paid to over 39,900 unemployed workers in December 2010, when the unemployment rate stood at 9.7 percent.

Idaho’s job vacancy rate remains low

Idaho's latest job vacancy survey confirms the state’s current labor market is still tight, but there are more new jobs being created now than a year ago, the Idaho Department of Labor said today.

The Idaho 2011 Job Vacancy Survey found 1.7 vacant jobs for every 100 filled jobs, a rate of 1.7 percent for total vacancies statewide of just over 10,000. That compared to a rate of 1.8 percent in the 2010 vacancy survey, for about 500 additional openings, the agency said in a news release.

But four of every 10 vacancies were for newly created jobs this year. That was nearly double the number last year, suggesting employers are beginning to expand payrolls following the worst recession since World War II.

The survey results are based on responses in May through mid-June from about 3,100 of Idaho’s 54,000 businesses, which averaged 609,000 jobs during the spring quarter.

Joblessness creeps up in December

Washington added an estimated 2,100 jobs in December, with the manufacturing and retail sectors leading hiring. Still, the estimated unemployment rate increased slightly from 9.2 percent to 9.3 percent, the state reported this morning.

Job numbers and the unemployment rate are derived from separate surveys. Due to margins of error, the surveys sometimes generate conflicting results.

In Spokane County, the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in December. That's up from a rate of 8.6 percent in November, and down slightly from 9.3 percent a year ago. Unemployed workers in the county totaled 21,990 last month, up from 21,030 a month earlier, the state said.

Call center operation to hire 190 in Spokane

West Corp., an Omaha-based call center business that has operations in Spokane, said it will hire 190 more permanent and temporary workers here.

The company said in a news release Wednesday that 120 of the jobs will be full time, and the rest will be seasonal, temporary positions. It will hold job fairs every Tuesday in October from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the company’s downtown Spokane location, at 157 S. Howard.

West Corp. currently employs about 1,100 workers in its two Spokane facilities, said David Pleiss, vice president of investor and public relations. The company’s clients here are a wireless telecommunications company and a chain of retail stores, Pleiss said, adding that West Corp. doesn’t identify its clients by name.

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Employment picture brightens

The unemployment rate in Spokane County dropped more than half a point in June, and statewide joblessness is back down to where it stood a year ago, state officials said today.

Unemployment last month fell to 8.5 percent locally, down from 9.1 percent in May and below the rate of 8.9 percent in June 2009.

Private-sector payrolls continued to grow in June, reducing Washington’s unemployment rate to 8.9 percent – the lowest rate since April 2009.

Statewide the economy picked up 4,500 private-sector jobs but registered a net loss of 3,500 jobs for the month. That’s due to 8,000 government jobs being eliminated, about half of which were federal census jobs.

Loss of low-pay jobs helps raise average wage in Washington

The average wage in Washington rose nearly 2 percent last year, largely because thousands of low-paying jobs disappeared during the recession.

Average annual pay increased 1.9 percent to $47,153 in 2009 – the smallest increase since 2004. The average weekly wage was $906 last year, the Employment Security Department said today.

Among other things, average wage is used to compute unemployment-insurance benefits for jobless workers. Because the average wage increased in 2009, the minimum and maximum unemployment benefits will go up for new unemployment claims beginning next month.

Job openings rise to highest level in 16 months

Job openings jumped in April to the highest level in 16 months, a sign that private employers may boost hiring in coming months, according to the Associated Press.

The number of jobs advertised at the end of April rose to 3.1 million from 2.8 million in March, the Labor Department said today. That’s the most openings since December 2008.

Private employers accounted for the entire net gain. The government’s advertising for jobs decreased, despite the hiring of hundreds of thousands of census workers in May.

Job openings have risen by about 740,000 since bottoming out at 2.3 million in July. But they remain far below pre-recession levels of about 4.5 million openings per month.

Survey: 3 in 10 Washington workers worry about losing their jobs

Nearly a third of Washington residents are concerned about job security amid signs of a slow recovery, according to a new survey for Everest College.

When asked about the high unemployment rate, 29 percent of workers in the state said they were concerned about losing their job. Meanwhile, 36 percent of survey respondents say they are considering returning to school. Of those, 24 percent are employed and would like to enhance their careers, and 22 percent want to train for a new career, according to the second annual Washington State Workplace Confidence Survey conducted by Harris/Decima.

The survey indicated that 26 percent of Washingtonians indicated they would be very likely to change careers if nothing stood in their way, up from 19 percent in 2009.

“The lack of workplace confidence is understandable considering Washington was hit hard last year by the failing economy and went through one of its roughest years ever from a jobs standpoint,” said Wendy Cullen, vice president of employer development for Everest College.

The survey also found that workplace anxiety levels continue to be high, with nearly two-thirds of survey respondents claiming they suffer some form of work-related stress. The top stress factor was pay (26 percent), followed by fear of losing their job (17 percent).

The survey was conducted March 4-10 with 504 employed residents surveyed by telephone.

Spokane’s jobs scene improves

More people found work in the Spokane area last month, bringing the unemployment rate down to 10.5 percent. It was 11.3 percent in February, and stood at 9.7 percent one year ago.

Spokane County had an estimated 214,500 employed people in March, or about 2,400 more than in February, the state Employment Security Department reported this morning. The number of unemployed was about 25,000, down from nearly 27,000 the month before.

In a sign the local economy is turning the corner on job losses, employment gains occurred across most industries, said Regional Labor Economist Doug Tweedy in Spokane.

A significant part of the employment gain last month was in seasonal hires by employers who delayed hiring because of the lingering effects of the recession, Tweedy said.

Construction and retail trades, two of the hardest hit industries during this recession, posted 400 job gains in March. Professional and technical trades added another 300 jobs.

Full economic recovery still years off

The economic recovery is on the horizon, but it will take four years or longer to erase the stain of the recession, an economist and a marketing professional told business and community leaders in Spokane this morning.

“I’m reasonably, vaguely optimistic” the Inland Northwest is headed into a recovery, said Grant Forsyth, professor of economics at Eastern Washington University.

This will be a modest year of employment growth, Forsyth predicted. The unemployment rate in the Spokane area will remain around 9 percent through 2010, he said.

The region also can expect little wage growth this year, he told a gathering hosted by Greater Spokane Incorporated at The Davenport Hotel.

Forsyth said the economy here is turning around, but he estimated it will take until summer 2013 to reach the employment peak seen in March 2008.

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on and its social networking accounts.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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