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Spokane County jobless rate rises as more seek work

Wed., June 25, 2014

More people were hunting for jobs in May to push Spokane County’s jobless rate to 6.7 percent.

April’s jobless rate here was 6.1 percent.

Doug Tweedy, state labor economist for the Spokane region, said May’s bump in unemployment also reflects the seasonal surge of area schools shutting down for the summer.

“You will even see a good number of high school graduates joining the job market in May,” he said.

A year ago Spokane’s May jobless rate was 7.7 percent. During the past 12 months, Tweedy said Spokane gained 1,900 jobs.

During May alone this year, about 800 local jobs were added, he said.

The job gains included 500 in construction; 600 in leisure and hospitality; and 200 in local government, according to state numbers.

The most job losses during May were in private education (down 500 jobs), state education (down 200 jobs) and the federal government (down 100 jobs).

The private education losses were seasonal layoffs of staff and faculty at private colleges, private K-12 schools and vocational schools, Tweedy said.

The state education losses were from state colleges and universities.

Local public school job cuts will show up next month.

The three largest industry categories in Spokane’s economy are government, health care and retail, said Tweedy.

During the past 12 months, health care added 800 local jobs, government added 200 jobs, and retail lost 300 jobs, Tweedy said.

The health care gains are driven by expansion within area clinics, outpatient facilities and nursing homes, he said.

The 300-job drop in retail reflects a structural change in how retail businesses operate, he added.

“You are seeing more use of technology, scanners and other systems to replace clerks and other workers in that (retail) area,” Tweedy said.

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