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Spokane County unemployment rate falls, as do job rolls

Spokane County lost 1,100 jobs in March, led by 500 jobs eliminated at state-funded universities and colleges in the county, Washington state’s Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

Despite the hits, Spokane’s unadjusted March jobless rate was 9.1 percent, down from 9.8 percent in February, state labor economist Doug Tweedy said.

Spokane had a 9.7 percent jobless rate in March 2012.

Washington state’s jobless rate last month was 7.5 percent.

Spokane’s unemployment rate fell because the number of workers rose from 209,270 in February to 211,820 in March, Tweedy said.

The unemployment rate is based on household surveys. Different data based on payroll surveys, called nonfarm jobs, revealed the 1,100 lost jobs in March. Tweedy said he finds the nonfarm results generally more accurate.

The higher-education job cuts were at Washington State University Spokane, Eastern Washington University and Community Colleges of Spokane.

Including those cuts, Spokane lost 600 state government jobs in March.

Tweedy said the other large sector with job losses last month was construction, which lost 300 jobs.

“I really can’t be sure where exactly those (state education) job losses were,” he said. “We’ll have a better idea in about four weeks” after employers provide revised numbers.

Tweedy said his initial review suggests more than half of the 500 lost jobs were support positions. Those include groundskeepers, cafeteria staff and clerical workers, he said.

“I have to think that some of the (500) jobs were seasonal and some were permanent” as state budget cuts continue taking a toll, he added.

Among sectors that gained in March, the leader was leisure and hospitality, which added 300 jobs. Wholesale trade added 100 jobs, said Tweedy.

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