Hiring by Spokane County contractors and manufacturers held a July increase in unemployment to 0.1 percent, according to figures released Tuesday by the Washington State Employment Security Department.
The increase to 6.1 percent from the 6 percent reported for June mostly reflects growth in the county labor force, to 230,340, rather than shrinking employment, said department regional economist Doug Tweedy. A year ago there were 227,700 workers in the county.
Although total employment, at 216,400, is down 150 from July 2007, Tweedy said the difference is statistically insignificant.
The unemployment rate last July was 4.9 percent.
The state jobless rate also rose, to 5.7 percent, from 5.4 percent in June and 4.4 percent a year ago.
Tweedy said the numbers for Spokane County, which are not seasonally adjusted – the state numbers are – reflect downtime for area teachers. “If you take educators out, we gained employment,” he said.
He noted construction employment increased by 300, mostly in commercial building, and manufacturing by 200. Both numbers are encouraging, he said, adding that small metal fabrication companies account for most of the manufacturing hires.
There were 13,940 unemployed in the county at the end of the month. The record is 16,330 in July 2002.
Statewide, 196,200 are jobless, a 5.1 percent jump from June and almost 30 percent higher than the total for July 2007.
Dave Wallace, the department’s acting chief labor economist, said the growing number of unemployed indicates a softening labor market, and he expects further deterioration as consumer spending slackens and home prices weaken.
Still, non-agricultural employment in Washington was up 29,500 over last July, while employment nationally declined slightly.