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Spokane County’s jobless rate declines

Washington unemployment holds steady; Coeur d’Alene area numbers up slightly

Unemployment in Washington held steady in April for the first time in more than a year. The rate in Spokane County fell.

After climbing steadily since January 2008, the statewide rate for April held at 9.1 percent, the same rate reported for March.

State labor economists said they are somewhat encouraged by the job news after months of steady deterioration, but looming cuts in state government payroll, and likely reductions at every level of education, tempered their optimism.

“It’s way too soon to assume the employment rate will start going down,” said Mary Ayala, chief labor economist with the Employment Security Department.

The number of employed statewide rose slightly more than 3,200, to 3.2 million. Meanwhile, the labor force declined by more than 17,000, although on a seasonally adjusted basis the total climbed by 2,100 over March.

The state unemployment rate in April 2008 was 4.5 percent.

In Idaho, the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was estimated at 7 percent for April, unchanged from March and 2.7 percentage points higher than in April 2008. In the Coeur d’Alene area, the jobless rate in April was reported at 7.3 percent, a half percentage point higher than in March.

In Spokane County, the number of employed in April fell by more than 2,000 to 218,270. The unemployment rate fell – to 9.5 percent from 10.4 percent – because the labor force decreased by almost 5,000 to 241,140. No seasonally-adjusted numbers are available for Spokane County.

The county unemployment rate has been driven up in recent months by an in-migration of rural workers looking for jobs. But local labor economist Doug Tweedy said the flow may have stabilized, or reversed, as jobseekers realize the opportunities may not have been as great as expected.

“They’re following the jobs,” he said.

Last April, there were 226,770 employed in Spokane County. The unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.

The national unemployment rate for April was 8.9 percent.