A slowdown last month in construction and related services dropped employment numbers in Spokane County below those for June 2007.
The year-over-year decrease was the first since April 2002, when the area was working its way out of a national economic downturn.
According to statistics from the Department of Employment Security, 219,460 were employed in the county, down 320 from June 2007.
The unemployment rate rose to 6 percent from 5.3 percent in May and 4.5 percent in June 2007.
Department Labor Economist Doug Tweedy said the credit and mortgage problems squeezing contractors and their lenders accounted for most of the recent job losses.
Though small, he said, the decrease has forced him to revise his projections for job growth over the next six months to less than 1 percent. He had been expecting more positive numbers.
“After four years of really solid growth we are really plateauing out,” Tweedy said.
He said job losses were only part – and a small one at that – of the reason for a higher unemployment rate. The number of unemployed has increased by almost 3,500 since June 2007, he noted, because many from rural counties who were unsuccessful finding jobs there are migrating into Spokane hoping for better luck.
Looking back to 2002, Tweedy said the 600-job loss in April — to a total 194,000 — compared with 2001 was the last after several months in which job numbers were 3,000 below those for prior years.
Patrick Jones, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis at Eastern Washington University, downplayed the slight erosion in jobs, saying “tough comps” often show up when prior periods were especially strong.
Some softening should be expected, he said. “I don’t think the business cycle has completely gone away.”
Statewide, employment numbers continued to increase, but the unemployment rate rose as the number of new workers outgrew the number of new jobs.
The jobless rate was 5.4 percent, or 5.5 percent adjusted for seasonal factors, compared with 5.1 percent in May and 4.4 percent for June 2007.
King and Snohomish counties accounted for about half the increase in new jobs in Washington, with aerospace manufacturing a major contributor to the growth, said acting Chief Economist David Wallace.
Wallace said the nation’s economic woes will take some time to sort out. “I don’t see a recovery,” he said.