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Spokane unemployment rate drops to 8.2 percent

The unemployment rate in Spokane County dropped to 8.2 percent in July, from 8.9 percent in June. That looks like a sign of recovery, but that might be wishful thinking.

The number of employed and unemployed both decreased last month as the labor force shrank by 2,850 workers, the state Employment Security Department reported today. The lower jobless rate mainly reflects fewer workers, not more jobs, explained Doug Tweedy, the agency’s regional labor economist in Spokane.

On a positive note, private employment in July was up slightly – the first time that has happened in a long time, Tweedy said. Industries that are beginning to boost employment are transportation and warehousing; health services; and leisure and hospitality.

The Spokane area continues to see some declines, however, in construction, manufacturing and retailing.

WorkSource Spokane, which connects job seekers and employers, reported a 12 percent increase in job postings in July, with 854 total listings, Tweedy said.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell slightly in July as the state gained an estimated 4,000 non-agricultural jobs. The jobless rate fell to 9.1 percent, from 9.2 percent in June.

“The July numbers are further evidence that the recession is slowing, but it’s too soon to say whether we’ve turned the corner,” Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee said in a statement. “We expect to see ups and downs for some time to come.”

Industries with the most job growth included education and health services, with 4,400 new jobs; professional and business services, which added 2,100; and government, up 1,300. Most of the government additions were in local education and tribal employment, while state government employment fell by about 1,300.

Industries with the largest declines were in construction, which cut 3,200 jobs; financial activities, down 1,900; and manufacturing, which lost 900 jobs.

Spokane County’s unemployment rate peaked at 10.3 percent in March. It has been dropping gradually since then. A year ago it was 5.5 percent.

Tweedy estimates the unemployment rate in Spokane County will remain between 8 percent and 9 percent through the end of the year. But December traditionally is a strong employment month in the area, he said, so recovery could begin the fourth quarter.

Idaho’s unemployment rate rose to 8.8 percent in July, and Coeur d’Alene’s to 10.3 percent, according to state Labor Department statistics released earlier this month. The state rate was the highest in 26 years.