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Spokane County unemployment rate lowest since 2008

Spokane County’s unemployment rate fell to 7.6 percent in October, the lowest since December 2008.

A year ago, Spokane’s unemployment rate was 8.3 percent. It was 8 percent in September.

October typically shows a job gain as retailers prepare for the holidays, said State Labor Economist Doug Tweedy. Notably, however, retail wasn’t the largest gainer of new jobs in October, he said.

Comparing the October report with the year-earlier figures, the strongest sectors are:

• Professional, scientific and technical, up 800 jobs.

• Construction, up 800 jobs.

• Finance and insurance, up 500 jobs.

• Health care, up 400 jobs.

Tweedy said the scenario has been the same all year. “The gains we see are all in private jobs,” he said, accompanied by steady job losses in local, state and federal government.

The county has 500 more private jobs now than it had in September and 3,200 more than a year ago, according to state job numbers. The decline in government employment from October 2011 to this October is 600 jobs, Tweedy said.

Tweedy said the October numbers are the fourth straight month of steady and impressive year-over-year job gains. That pattern lead him conclude it’s “a sustainable” job recovery, not the result of seasonal shifts, he said.

The gains in construction are primarily in industrial projects, such as runway work at Fairchild Air Force Base and the new Washington State University medical education building, he noted.

“Residential construction is still down” compared to recent years, Tweedy said.

He added that health care in Spokane, which has been generally flat, showed strong gains in October, noting “the gains in health care are occurring in clinics and labs.” Since last year, Spokane’s hospitals are showing job losses, Tweedy said.

In the government sector – which includes state education – job losses include a reduction of 400 administrative jobs. Those are spread among local, state and federal agencies, Tweedy said.

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