November 18, 2009 in Business

Spokane jobless rate drops to 7.9 percent

Statewide, numbers up; economist still cautious
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane County employers hired more than 3,000 workers in October, lifting total employment numbers to the highest level since February, and pushing the unemployment rate to the lowest level since December 2008.

The October rate fell to 7.9 percent. Statewide, according to the Washington Department of Employment Security, the rate climbed from 9.1 percent in September to 9.3 percent, seasonally adjusted, and 8.8 percent unadjusted. The Spokane figure is also unadjusted.

The national unemployment rate is 10.2 percent, seasonally adjusted.

Although encouraged by the numbers reported Tuesday, Regional Labor Economist Doug Tweedy cautioned that October’s numbers alone do not conclusively signal a turnaround for the Spokane economy.

Employment numbers have seesawed for several months, a pattern likely to continue, he said, “but trending higher.”

There were 222,420 jobholders in Spokane County in October, up from 219,040 in September. Employment peaked in November 2008 at 229,380, and bottomed out in June at 217,620.

The unemployment rate hit its lowest point – 5.3 percent – in October 2008.

Tweedy said hiring increased almost across the board, with the exception of manufacturing and construction. Retail employment did not increase heading into the holiday season, he said, but flattened out after months of declines.

The health care, education and government sectors added most of the jobs. Tweedy noted that new jobs at Northern Quest Casino, which is adding staff as the opening of its new hotel approaches, accounts for much of the government hiring. The casino is owned by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians.

In neighboring counties, the unemployment rates for October were: Whitman, 4.4 percent; Pend Oreille, 11.3 percent; Stevens, 10.5 percent; and Lincoln, 7.2 percent.

The rate in Kootenai County, reported earlier this month by the state Department of Labor, was 11.1 percent.

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