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County jobless rate holds steady

Most employment growth seen in manufacturing sector

About 1,100 jobs were created in Spokane County during November – a bright spot in an otherwise difficult year for those seeking work.

Doug Tweedy, the regional labor economist who tracks employment data for Spokane, said the county’s jobless rate remained stuck, however, at 8.1 percent. That’s the same as October.

Across Washington state the unemployment rate was 8.3 percent.

Tweedy said jobs continue to be created in manufacturing – especially in metal production and fabrication, and in the production of plastics and rubber. The state does not disclose the identities of companies in its monthly labor reports.

“The continued strength of manufacturing is really important,” Tweedy said. “These are stable jobs that are not driven by seasonal demand.”

He said construction has historically been the barometer of an economic rebound. This time, he said, it may be manufacturing.

While private-sector hiring is improving, the economy continues to struggle with layoffs and attrition within all levels of government.

About 600 government jobs – excluding the military – have been lost in Spokane County. Government, including education, is responsible for 18 percent of the jobs locally.

Tweedy said another major employment sector, health care, also has shed jobs as hospitals attempt to trim payrolls.

For the year so far, the unemployment rate in Spokane averaged 9.1 percent, compared with 9.6 percent for 2010.

“It’s been flat,” Tweedy said.

There have been some subsectors where hiring has been hot, he said, but not enough to make an economist believe that 2012 will be significantly better.

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