May 18, 1995 in Nation/World

Forecaster Sees Strong Job Growth Spokane County Likely To Add 9,000 Positions During 1995

Grayden Jones Staff writer

Nearly 9,000 new jobs will be created in Spokane County this year, driven largely by gains among distributors, retailers and business services, a new economic report predicts.

The growth would be twice the rate that occurred in 1994 and could boost total employment to an all-time high of 180,100.

“It’s a pretty healthy jump,” said Meri Berberet, marketing and research director for the Spokane Area Economic Development Council, which publishes the Quarterly Employment, Wage Income and Taxable Retail Sales Forecast.

The optimistic report comes despite a slowdown in the construction industry, which has fueled Spokane’s recent economic growth. Building permits are off so far this year and sales of existing homes have cooled too.

The report is underwritten by Momentum ‘95 and the EDC. Washington State University economist Fred Inaba researches and writes the report. His employment figures include only jobs covered by worker’s compensation insurance.

While total employment is expected to increase, average wages may not keep pace with inflation. That could result in all but the highest-paid workers averaging less pay after adjusting for inflation - a pattern that has continued in Spokane County since 1992.

The report predicts a 3.9 percent growth in 1995 wages, after adjusting for the West Coast inflation rate of about 4 percent a year. The growth in wages will rise 4.6 percent in 1996.

But employment will grow at 5.2 percent this year and 8 percent in 1996, providing more jobs and lowering the county’s overall average wage per worker, the forecast says.

WSU’s Inaba said that the fastest-growing industries in the county are wholesale and retail trades, services, transportation and utilities. Wholesale and retail trades account for one-fourth of all workers in the county and 67 percent of taxable retail sales.

Meanwhile, Spokane’s cooling real estate market and the restructuring of some financial institutions could result in a 5 percent drop in retail sales for finance, insurance and real estate companies, Inaba said. Construction also may experience a decline in sales and jobs as the total value of building permits falls.

County officials in March reported a 50 percent drop in building permit values for residential construction to $3.1 million, compared with the same month a year ago. And last week, the National Association of Realtors dropped Spokane from its list of the hottest real estate markets, indicating sales of existing homes in the community have slowed.

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