Seasonal trends lower Spokane jobless rate

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 26, 2011

The return of workers to area schools following the summer break is behind a better Spokane County jobs report.

Unemployment was 8.6 percent in September, down from 9 percent in August.

The new numbers were released Tuesday by the state’s Employment Security Department.

Doug Tweedy, regional labor economist, said the jobless numbers should fall again in October as retailers and restaurants hire for the holiday shopping season. Businesses are anticipating better sales and are thus bolstering their seasonal hires.

The 8.6 percent unemployment rate was a bit higher that the 8.5 percent rate during the same month of 2010.

Fewer unemployed workers are searching for jobs, Tweedy said, which tends to push the official jobless rate down. He said the phenomenon of out-of-work people in outlying areas migrating to Spokane in hope of rosier employment opportunities has slowed and in some cases has even reversed this year.

Of note, according to Tweedy, are two employment sectors that have added 1,500 jobs since last year. Manufacturing and health care now account for 24 percent of all jobs in the county. Both are viewed as unaffected by seasonal trends, more stable and better paying than many other sectors.

Most of the new manufacturing jobs are related to plastics, rubber, chemical and fabricated metals.

The new health care jobs were largely due to hiring in clinics and labs.

By comparison, government jobs continued to disappear. With 18 percent of all jobs in Spokane County related to myriad government services, further layoffs at the local, state and federal levels present a challenge.

“The full impact of these government layoffs is still unknown at this time,” Tweedy said.

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