New employment numbers show encouraging signs in Spokane County.
Total employment in the county jumped by 3,300 people from July to August. In addition, there were 450 more people employed than in August last year — the first year-over-year increase since November 2008. All told, employment in the county was 215,690 last month, resulting in a drop in the unemployment rate to 8.6 percent from 8.8 percent.
The numbers were released Wednesday by the Washington Employment Security Department, which reported a statewide loss of 2,000 jobs, but no change in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, or 8.8 percent unadjusted.
Spokane County’s rate is not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.
Private employment increased statewide in August, but not enough to offset the loss of 2,900 government jobs, half of them U.S. Census workers whose jobs lasted only a few months.
The state has lost 20,700 jobs in the last year.
Doug Tweedy, ESD regional economist for Spokane, said higher employment in the agriculture, recreation, and leisure and hospitality sectors accounted for much of the increase over July. Since last August, he said, health care and manufacturing have been strong suits.
“Manufacturing is starting to show some life,” he said, particularly chemicals, metal fabrication and processing, and plastics and rubber.
Job losses have been concentrated in government, including education, Tweedy said.
He said jobs in construction, among the sectors hardest hit in the recession, are increasing but remain down by 50 from August 2009.
“We’re seeing more activity at WorkSource,” Tweedy said, noting the Spokane employment office has 1,600 job openings posted, double the 800 of a year ago.
But new claims for unemployment benefits also increased in August for the first time in 2010, he said.
The state’s highest unemployment rate in August was 13.9 percent in Clark County in the southwest, along the Oregon border. San Juan County in the northwest had the lowest rate at 5.2 percent. King County, the state’s largest county, was at 8 percent.
The national rate for August was 9.6 percent.