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Jobless rate hits 8.7 percent

Wed., Dec. 16, 2009

Job losses in county below seasonal norm

Spokane County’s unemployment rate rose to 8.7 percent in November, but job losses were below the seasonal norm, the Department of Employment Security’s regional economist said Tuesday.

Doug Tweedy said workers in construction and recreation typically join the unemployment lines as harsher weather slows down those businesses.

Retailers helped offset losses in those sectors by hiring 1,000 workers in expectation of the Christmas season, he said.

Despite the gains, retail employment, at 26,000, remained 3 percent below the 26,900 of November 2008.

Retailers across Washington eliminated 800 positions in November, which contributed to an overall loss of 41,400 jobs, according to department figures. The losses lifted the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent, or 9.2 percent seasonally adjusted, which was a decline from the 9.3 percent for October.

The national rate, also seasonally adjusted, was 10 percent. No adjusted figure is available for Spokane.

Department Chief Economist Bill Wallace said he was encouraged by a gain of 2,800 jobs in professional business services, especially the 1,100 bump among temporary employment agencies. That could indicate businesses are staffing up with short-term workers before committing themselves to adding payroll, he said.

Tweedy said professional service jobs in Spokane increased only 100 above October levels.

Total employment slipped to 221,980, down 390 from October and 7,400 from November 2008. The October unemployment rate was 8 percent, a slight adjustment from the 7.9 percent first reported.

Although employment was relatively static, Tweedy said health care services remained strong despite a lot of job “churn,” and there are glimmers of growth in advanced manufacturing and professional technical services.

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