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Jobless rate inches upward in Spokane County

March unemployment in Spokane County ticked up slightly to 10.5 percent, up from 10.4 in February, even as jobs increased by 480, Washington’s Employment Security Department said today.

More total people looked for jobs in Spokane County this past month that in February, raising total unemployment, said Doug Tweedy, the regional labor economist for Spokane.

He sees that as a sign of ongoing recovery. “When jobs start increasing, discouraged workers start looking for jobs again,” Tweedy said.

The other data oddity: unemployment in Spokane in March 2010 was 11 percent, but there were almost 500 more people working 12 months ago, state labor data show.

Tweedy said that comes from seasonal impacts. “The weather this past March has slowed outdoor jobs” including construction, landscaping and other areas of the job market, he said.

Spokane construction jobs have grown by 100 from a year ago. Manufacturing jobs, on the other hand, are showing positive momentum.

Spokane’s manufacturing jobs are up by 600 since last fall, from 13,800 in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 14,400 in the first quarter of 2011, Tweedy said.

He said the largest share of that manufacturing growth came from the advanced manufacturing subgroup, which includes composites, rubber, plastics and metal fabrication.

Another sign of modest economic growth was the gain in private employment, said Tweedy.

From fourth quarter 2010, private jobs jumped by 800 in Spokane, he said. Spokane’s government sector jobs dropped by roughly 300 over the same time.

Washington’s statewide jobless rate also rose slightly in March, to 9.2 percent. It remains above the U.S. rate of 8.8 percent.

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