The jobless rate in Spokane County fell to 3.9 percent in August, matching the best months for records going back to 1988.
The figure might have been better still but for a strike by United Parcel Service workers, said Fred Walsh, a labor market analyst with the Wash ington Department of Employment Security.
For the state as a whole, the rate melted to 4.3 percent, the lowest of the year, as the economy continued to manufacture work.
The jobless rate compared with a July figure of 4.5 percent. The rate was 1-1/2 percentage points lower than the same month a year ago.
The July rate in Spokane County was 4.1 percent.
Total Spokane employment reached 195,400, up from 194,700 in July and 190,000 in August 1996. The labor force grew to 203,400 in August, an increase of 2,300 from July.
Walsh said retail employment boomed by 1,400, largely because of the opening of the Spokane Valley Mall. But the UPS strike idled 650 workers in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, he noted.
The unemployment rate in Spokane County last fell to 3.9 percent in August and September 1994, when the labor force numbered about 18,000 less than today.
“The state’s economy is generating jobs at a much higher rate than a year ago,” Carver Gayton, commissioner of the Department of Employment Security, said in a news release.
“But growth in July was so strong that it borrowed from the big job gains we usually see in August,” he said.
Seasonally adjusted, the rate for the month was 5 percent, up by two percentage points from July.
The adjusted rate compared with a national rate for the month of 4.9 percent.
Total nonfarm wage and salary employment increased by 3,200 workers, less than in August of last year, and a reflection of the UPS strike, which temporarily cut 3,500 from the state’s work force.
Manufacturers expanded payrolls by 5,100 with seasonal increases in food processing and lumber and wood products.
“The pace of aerospace hiring through the first eight months of the year has averaged close to 1,300 a month, compared to 950 in the same period last year,” said Dennis Fusco, chief economist for the department.
“This brings the total (aerospace) job count to 106,300,” he said.
Other sectors that saw job growth in the month were construction, wholesale and retail trade, services and health care.
Whitman County had the lowest jobless rate for the month at 1.5 percent and Pend Oreille had the highest at 10.5 percent.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: County-by-county monthly unemployment rates