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Spokane unemployment rate stays near 10%

Spokane County registered a 9.9 percent unemployment rate for March, the same as February, the Washington Employment Security Department reported today.

One year earlier Spokane’s jobless rate was 10.6 percent.

Statewide, the numbers were slightly better; Washington’s overall jobless rate in March was 8.3 percent, also exactly the same as in February. One year earlier, the state jobless rate was 9.4 percent.

In Spokane County, the March summary of employment showed another uptick in private jobs, said state labor economist Doug Tweedy. While government jobs have been disappearing for about a year, Spokane’s gradual private-sector job growth has been the only solid bit of positive news during that same 12-month stretch.

March showed a net gain of 1,700 jobs in Spokane County compared with last March. That indicates a continuing expansion by private companies looking to move their businesses forward, Tweedy said.

March’s private job rebound came after January and February showed modest losses in private jobs in Spokane, Tweedy noted.

“So whenever you see growth in private jobs, that’s a good thing,” Tweedy said.

Normally the private sector’s rebound after a recession is led by construction jobs. That isn’t happening. Spokane construction jobs, year over year, are down about 1,000, Tweedy said.

Across all sectors and industries, Spokane County had 204,200 jobs in March this year, up 1,200 from March 2011.

Tweedy said the private job gains are seen in four main sectors: manufacturing, financial and insurance, business and professional services, and health care, specifically for hospitals, labs and clinics. In that subsector, Spokane gained about 400 jobs since March 2011, Tweedy said.

“The good news is that we’re gaining full-time good-wage jobs,” he said. “There’s also diversity in the growth, in a number of different sectors.”

The biggest government sector hit was state government, specifically higher-ed positions, Tweedy said. That area saw a net loss of 300 jobs over the past year.

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