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Spring saw first rise in job listings since 2006

More “Help Wanted” signs popped up around Washington this spring, the first increase since fall 2006.

A Washington Employment Security Department survey indicated employers were looking for 38,732 workers, up 21 percent since fall 2009, and up 19 percent from spring 2009.

The high was 90,000 vacancies in fall 2006.

Almost half this spring’s vacancies were in King County. Spokane County, with 2,475 openings, had 6 percent of the vacant positions.

Doug Tweedy, the department’s Spokane labor economist, said the openings represent a 30 percent jump from the 1,900 of spring 2009. Looking one year back eliminates distortions created by seasonal swings in sectors like retail and hospitality, he said.

Tweedy said the biggest jobs gains have been in security, 227; registered nurses, 169; customer service, mainly call centers, 155; nurse aides and orderlies, 98; and retail, 72.

Vacancies in the professional, scientific, accounting and legal category more than doubled, from 72 to 148.

“We seem to be doing well with legal in the county,” Tweedy said. “We also have some smaller research and development companies.”

Despite the increased demand for labor, wages have remained flat, he said.

The ESD survey found median wage for vacant positions was $9.50 in the county, $10.60 in the state.

Pay levels tracked education. Those with a graduate education could expect $29.41 per hour, those with less than a high school degree $8.75, 20 cents higher than the state minimum. Almost one-quarter of the open jobs pay less than $10 an hour.

Registered nurses were in greatest demand, with 2,318 openings, followed by software engineers, with 1,929.