Spokane’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in January, according to reports released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Though jobless numbers are higher than in December, state economists say a better indicator of the region’s jobs picture is the comparison to January 2011, when unemployment was 10.9 percent.
“It’s true that we did lose some jobs in construction and retail trade from December to January,” said regional labor economist Doug Tweedy of the state’s Employment Security Department. “But we think there’s a continuation of encouraging signs for the economy.”
In real numbers, Spokane County had 1,600 fewer jobs in January 2012 than it did in January 2011.
January is historically a tough employment month. Tweedy said he expects the unemployment rate to slide in the coming months – a reflection of brighter national and state economic outlooks.
Tweedy said private sector job growth – about 2,000 over the past year – in manufacturing, finance, insurance, engineering, science and legal work is “laying a good foundation for this recovery.”
Such jobs are more stable, pay higher wages and often come with better benefits than work in retail and hospitality, which together dropped about 1,900 jobs.
“The creation of these kinds of jobs will generate the need for those other types of jobs that have been lost,” he said.
The big question remains how much more government will shrink.
Deep government job losses have come about as fewer dollars and fewer programs equate to the need for fewer people.
Education, another sector of government employment, has not been as deeply affected by job cuts.
January’s jobless rates for other Eastern Washington counties: 5.8 percent in Whitman, 12.2 percent in Adams, 9.5 percent in Lincoln, 12.8 percent in Stevens, 12.9 percent in Pend Oreille and 14.9 percent in Ferry.