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Spokane County unemployment rose in February to 8.7 percent

Spokane County’s jobless rate was 8.7 percent in February, the state reported Tuesday.

That’s up from January’s unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, yet still below the February 2013 rate of 9.6 percent.

Washington’s February unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, up from January’s 6.9 percent. A year ago the state rate was 8 percent.

Spokane lost 600 private-sector jobs in February, led by a decline of 500 retail jobs, according to the Employment Security Department. Construction and health care each lost 300 jobs last month. Those losses were offset by gains in leisure/hospitality, up 200; financial services, up 100; and professional and business services, up 100 jobs.

The nonfarm employer surveys also show Spokane gained 400 government jobs in February, led by 200 jobs in state K-12 education.

The retail and construction sector job losses result from seasonal employment adjustments, said Doug Tweedy, Spokane’s labor economist for the Employment Security Department. Weather is usually the key factor in construction job declines.

“January and February are months with lots of job volatility,” he said. “We try not to get too excited until we get to the March report,” he said.

The nonfarm payroll survey reported a net gain of 1,300 Spokane jobs from February 2013 to 2014, Tweedy said. “That’s still a positive takeaway, showing nine months in a row we’re above where we were one year earlier,” he said.

A different civilian labor force survey, using household phone interviews, found Spokane County had 2,000 more unemployed workers in February than in the previous month.

That number is a composite of seasonal layoffs, workers who have remained unemployed for several months, and new job seekers who formerly were not looking but have rejoined the labor force, Tweedy said.