June 20, 2012 in Business

College graduates entering labor force boost county jobless rate

By The Spokesman-Review
Workforce panel, city split

The Spokane Area Workforce Development Council will split away from the city of Spokane and become a nonprofit organization in partnership with Community Colleges of Spokane.

The change is intended to streamline management and increase efficiency, a council news release said. As a nonprofit, the council can seek funds from a wider array of sources, in addition to federal and other grant monies.

“This transition will allow us to become more flexible, efficient and entrepreneurial,” Executive Director Mark Mattke said. “We look forward to finding new ways to bring resources to our region to strengthen our workforce and ultimately our business community.”

The city is refocusing on the delivery of core services that benefit its businesses and citizens. The Workforce Development Council provides services to the entire county, not just the city.

The council and Community Colleges of Spokane routinely collaborate to provide access to education and training in the region. The council leads a demand-driven workforce system in the county, with public and private investments in workforce training.

Staff report

Spokane County’s unemployment rate for May grew to 9.1 percent, up from 8.7 percent in April, the state reported Tuesday.

Spokane’s May 2012 number exactly matches the May 2011 jobless rate.

Statewide, Washington’s jobless rate ticked up to 8.3 percent in May, from 8.2 percent in April. One year ago, the Washington jobless rate was 9.3 percent. The national jobless rate in May was 8.2 percent, up from 8.1 percent in April.

Spokane’s jobless increase reflects a seasonal impact from college graduates hitting the job market, said Doug Tweedy, the state’s Spokane-area labor economist. That number comes from household surveys.

A different survey, based on employer payroll, measures total employment in the county. That survey found 2,900 more jobs in Spokane in May than April, Tweedy said.

The 2,900 number, however, is not seasonally adjusted. The seasonally adjusted change in Spokane from April to May is 1,600 more jobs, Tweedy said.

Sectors in Spokane accounting for job growth were manufacturing, construction, leisure-hospitality and professional-scientific-technical, a category covering lawyers, researchers and companies involved in pharmaceutical production. Spokane’s hospitality and construction job gains were mostly seasonal, Tweedy noted.

One number showing positive direction is the total number of initial jobless claims. Tweedy said May 2012 had 2,554 new claims, the lowest monthly number for 2012. Even so, that number was higher than in May 2011 – which totaled 2,197.

Grays Harbor County had the state’s highest jobless rate, at 13.7 percent. San Juan County had the lowest rate, 6.6 percent, edging out Whitman County’s 6.7 percent.

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