County jobless rate down for March

Employment up for first time since May 2009

Employment in Spokane County increased for the first time since last May, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Washington Employment Security Department.

The gain of almost 2,400 jobs in March was enough to lower the unemployment rate to 10.5 percent from a revised level of 11.3 percent in February.

The addition, which brought total employment to 214,500, was not enough to offset subtraction that since March 2009 has seen the county lose more than 5,000 jobs.

The number of unemployed people, not seasonally adjusted, was 25,100, down from nearly 27,000 the month before.

Doug Tweedy, the department’s labor economist for the Spokane region, said he is encouraged that many industries were adding jobs after months of caution by employers who delayed hiring because of the recession.

Construction and retail trades, two of the hardest-hit industries during this recession, posted 400 job gains in March. Professional and technical trades added another 300 jobs.

However, new job postings at the Spokane WorkSource office fell sharply, from 1,496 in February to 926 in March.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate in March edged up to 9.5 percent from February’s revised rate of 9.4 percent. The national rate for March was 9.7 percent.

The adjusted job gain was an estimated 1,600 jobs, marking the second time in three months the state posted positive numbers, after 13 consecutive months of job losses.

Still, state employers have shed 67,800 jobs since March 2009, a 2.4 percent decrease. U.S. employment has fallen 1.8 percent over the last year.

“This recovery is going to take time, but the latest job gains are another positive indicator that we’re on the right track,” Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee said.

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