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Spokane Jobless Rate Hits 6.6%

The ranks of the unemployed rose last month in Spokane County as employers adjusted to cold weather and the end of post-holiday retail sales, the state Department of Employment Security said Tuesday.

“It was a pretty normal seasonal shift,” said Fred Walsh, Spokane labor market analyst for the department. “By the end of March, things will start picking up again.”

Spokane’s jobless rate was 6.6 percent in February. That was higher than the 6.3 percent rate in January, but below 7 percent recorded the same month last year.

The latest figures mean 12,800 people looking for a job in Spokane County were unemployed, while 182,400 people were working.

Statewide, the unemployment rate rose in February by three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.2 percent. However, that was down from the 8.2 percent rate one year ago.

The February unemployment rate in Idaho, which state officials released three weeks ago, was 5.7 percent.

In Whitman County, where Washington State University was in session, unemployment was the lowest in the state at 2.9 percent. To the south in Columbia County, where large vegetable processors reduce their work force in the winter, nearly one out of five people were out of work - the highest rate in the state.

Seasonally adjusted, the state jobless rate for February was 5.9 percent, half a percentage point higher than the seasonally adjusted national rate of 5.4 percent, the department said.

But state economist Dennis Fusco said the rate showed signs of underlying strength in the economy.

“There was an increase over the year of 6,900 manufacturing jobs despite significant cutbacks in aerospace,” he said. This was “the largest increase in manufacturing since 1990.”

In Spokane County, manufacturers added 300 jobs during February, while services added 700 jobs. Retailers, however, dropped 200 positions and the construction trades stayed even, the department said.

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