January 20, 2011 in Business

Spokane County employment edges up

By The Spokesman-Review

Employment in Spokane County rebounded last year, but remains substantially below the peak reached in 2008.

The same was true for all of Washington, according to figures released Wednesday by the Washington Employment Security Department.

The year closed with 220,850 employed in the county, up from 218,980 at the end of December 2009.

The unemployment rate was 9.1 percent, a modest improvement from 9.3 percent one year ago, but a jump from 8.6 percent in November.

Employment in the county reached a high of 230,000 in November 2008. The average number employed that year was 226,000.

That average tumbled to 218,000 in 2009, and slipped further to 216,000 in 2010. The unemployment rate crested at 11.2 percent in February.

Regional Labor Economist Doug Tweedy said county employment started to turn around last summer, and has trended upward since then, although 3,500 jobs were lost from November to December.

Losses are typical in December because employers lay off seasonal help, he said, although the loss of 700 more construction jobs was unusual.

Of 11 job sectors the department tracks, only health care and transportation added jobs in December, 200 and 100, respectively, Tweedy said.

He said education employment improved smartly during the year, particularly private education.

Workers seeking retraining were turning to technical schools where they might pick up a new set of job skills in a relatively short time, he said.

Tweedy said the department’s Spokane WorkSource office has 600 jobs posted, one-half the number for November and just two better than the 598 one year ago.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 9.3 percent from a revised 9.2 percent for November. The national rate was 9.4 percent.

The number of jobless workers increased by only 100, to 328,600, compared with November, but the labor force fell by more than 10,000.

Private employers added 11,800 workers during the year, but layoffs in the public sector reduced the net job gain to 8,000.

The state lost almost 134,000 jobs in 2009, state Labor Economist Dave Wallace said.

“We’re seeing a lot of positive signs outside the labor market,” he said. “We’re just not seeing the rebound in the labor market.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email