October 22, 2008 in Business

Jobless rates fall in county, Washington

By The Spokesman-Review

Unemployment numbers dipped for Washington and Spokane County in September, bucking a trend toward increased joblessness.

Figures released Tuesday by the Department of Employment Security pegged the state rate at 5.8 percent, compared with 6 percent in August.

In Spokane County, the decline was more pronounced, with the September rate dipping to 5.5 percent from 6.1 percent in August.

A year ago, the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent for the state and 4.3 percent for the county.

Spokane County has more job seekers, as well as more jobs.

The labor force grew by 3,200 people from August, to 234,760, while employment increased by 4,250, to 221,820.

Spokane County employment was off by 1,140 since September 2007.

But Doug Tweedy, state labor economist for Spokane, said the area has done well considering the effects of the Boeing Co. workers’ strike on local suppliers.

Metal fabrication companies picked up the slack, he said, driving manufacturing employment up by 100 despite layoffs announced by Kaiser Aluminum and Triumph Composites.

“That’s a real good sign,” Tweedy said.

The local economy will get a boost when the strike ends and local suppliers rehire workers, he said.

Tweedy said the WorkSource office in Spokane is listing 1,200 job openings.

“People are still finding jobs,” he said, especially in education and health care.

Tweedy also noted that employment in the construction and financial services industries are off only 600 since September 2007 despite the severe downturn in home building and mortgage financing.

He said Spokane and Washington are benefiting from economic diversity that’s exceptional compared to that of the rest of the United States.

Washington added 28,100 jobs in the past year, a 1 percent rate of growth, compared with a 0.7 percent job loss for the nation. The national unemployment rate in September was 6.1 percent.

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