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Spokane County’s jobless rate drops to 5.6 percent

Spokane’s slow but steady economic pulse picked up in June as the county’s jobless rate fell to 5.6 percent, the first time it dipped below 6 percent since 2008, the state Employment Security Department said.

The county’s jobless rate in May was 6.6 percent.

Statewide, the Washington jobless rate in June was 5.4 percent, down from 6.1 percent in May, the department reported.

Because of seasonal shifts, primarily with private schools, the county’s total number of payroll jobs fell by 100 in June compared with May, state labor economist Doug Tweedy said.

But compared with June 2013, Spokane County has gained 1,700 jobs, he said.

The end of the school year, when 800 private education workers became unemployed, accounted for much of the loss of jobs in the county from May to June.

Another sector, health services, added 200 jobs in June, Tweedy said. Other sectors growing during June were construction (up 200), manufacturing (up 100), and financial services (up 200).

Last month, Spokane County reported a preliminary estimate of 217,900 jobs, down from 218,000 the month before. One year ago, Spokane had 216,200 jobs.

But one sector – retail trade – didn’t do as well in the past 12 months, losing a total of 300 jobs, Tweedy said.

Reasons include retailers relying more on technology in stores, plus online shopping, he said.

Wholesale trade, on the other hand, is gaining. That sector is up 400 jobs from June 2013.

Transportation and warehousing show a net gain of 300 jobs from a year ago, Tweedy said.

Education jobs – at the state and private level – have become one of the main contributors to the job growth of the past 12 months, according to Tweedy.

Private education has gained a total of 700 jobs from June 2013. That’s all expansion at universities, K-12 private schools and private technical and vocational schools, he said.

In the same 12 months, public education gained 300 jobs; of those, 200 are at universities or community colleges and the rest are at K-12 schools, Tweedy said.

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