April 24, 2013 in Business

Unemployment rate down in Spokane County

By The Spokesman-Review
Idaho labor force shrinks

Idaho’s unemployment rate held steady in March at 6.2 percent amid a continuing decline in the labor force, according to the state Department of Labor.

Another 1,400 people left the workforce in March, the largest one-month exodus since the heart of the recession three years ago and the third straight monthly decline, agency spokesman Bob Fick said.

More than 2,600 people have dropped out of Idaho’s labor force since December, leaving it at just over 772,000 and erasing any gains made since January 2012, when the economy was struggling to begin its recovery, Fick said.

Idaho employers hired 13,000 workers in March for new and replacement jobs – about 500 fewer than they hired in March 2012 and well below pre-recession hiring levels.

Kootenai County’s rate inched up to 6.8 percent in March, from 6.6 percent in February. The jobless rate held steady at 8.5 percent in Bonner County and 10.3 percent in Shoshone County.

Scott Maben

State universities and colleges cut 500 positions in Spokane County last month to help drive March job losses to 1,100.

And yet the county’s overall unemployment rate fell to 9.1 percent, the Washington state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

While Spokane continues to struggle with unemployment above 9 percent, Washington state’s overall jobless rate was 7.5 percent in March.

King County posted a jobless rate of 5.1 percent, and Snohomish County was at 5.7 percent.

In Spokane County, the unemployment rate fell because the overall number of jobs rose from 209,270 to 211,620, state labor economist Doug Tweedy said.

Unemployment rates are based on household surveys. Different data based on payroll surveys, called nonfarm jobs, revealed the 1,100 jobs lost in March. Tweedy said he finds the nonfarm results generally more accurate.

The university and college job cuts were at Washington State University Spokane, Eastern Washington University and Community Colleges of Spokane.

Tweedy said the other large employment sector with job losses last month was construction, which lopped 300 from payrolls.

“I really can’t be sure where exactly those (state education) job losses were,” Tweedy 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 college 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, Tweedy said.

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