Spokane County saw a net loss of only 30 jobs in February compared with January, as unemployment rose slightly to 9.7 percent.
The increase follows a jump in unemployment of more than 2 percentage points from December to January.
Regional Labor Economist Doug Tweedy said more people are entering the local work force. Some of the new jobseekers, Tweedy said, are seniors returning to work because of reductions in retirement income.
Tweedy said gains in health care and education employment are largely offsetting losses in retailing.
The number employed in the county, 222,490, was down less than 2,000 from February 2008, representing a drop year-over-year of less than 1 percent. In the county, 23,910 are unemployed out of a total work force of 246,400.
Statewide, the jobless rate has not been so high since 1985. According to figures released Tuesday by the Employment Security Department, unemployment rose to 8.4 percent from 7.8 percent in January in Washington.
The month-to-month increase statewide is also the fastest since June 1980, said Mary Ayala, the department’s chief labor economist.
The state lost 28,200 jobs last month, Ayala said, bringing the total number unemployed to 330,572 – a record.
“The recession’s effects are now reflected throughout the entire economy,” Ayala said, noting jobs were lost in every category tracked by the state.
The unemployment rate a year ago in Washington was 4.7 percent. In Spokane County, the rate was 6.1 percent.
The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in February.
The state and national numbers are adjusted for seasonal variations in employment. Spokane County figures are not adjusted.
January and February are usually the worst months for local unemployment numbers, Tweedy said, adding that unemployment figures for March and April will better indicate where the economy might be headed the rest of the year, a sentiment echoed by Ayala.
Tweedy said WorkSource in Spokane lists 940 job openings.
Twenty-one counties in the state reported double-digit unemployment. Ferry County, at 14.8 percent, reported the highest rate. Whitman has the lowest at 5 percent.
The rate in Stevens County was 14.7 percent, in Pend Oreille County 13.7 percent, in Adams County 11.6 percent, and in Lincoln County 9.9 percent.