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Diverse work force offers region strength in recession

Labor Day celebrates our work force – the nurses, teachers, retail salespeople, laborers, lawyers and librarians; in short, all of the workers who fuel the nation’s economic engine.

The holiday, created in 1882, is thought to have been founded by Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. He “was first in suggesting a day to honor those ‘who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.’ ”

As of May, 154.4 million people older than 16 were a part of the nation’s work force, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Spokane County, retail salespeople, financial clerks, material moving workers, registered nurses and teachers are the five largest occupations, according to data collected by the Washington Employment Security Department.

Doug Tweedy, regional labor economist with the department, said Spokane County is fortunate because it has a diverse economy.

“We don’t have the major employers like Microsoft or Boeing, but we do have a lot of medium companies in a variety of industries,” Tweedy said. “So when a couple of our industries are hit with a down cycle, our other industries can pick up the slack. That’s how we are able to weather a recession.”

Kootenai County’s economy is becoming a more diverse.

“Health care and retail trade dominate the work force, but construction, retail trade and professional services contain the most amount of businesses,” said Alivia Body, regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor. “Regional economies that are highly integrated are, by definition, highly diversified and inherently stable.”

In the future, economic analysts expect the construction trade, health care, law enforcement, sales, network and computer system administrators, and financial analysts to have higher demand, both locally and nationally.