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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Unemployment rate falls in Spokane County

Spokane County’s jobless rate dipped slightly in May, to 5.3 percent from 5.8 percent, according to figures released this week by the state Employment Security Department.

Washington state’s jobless rate rose to 5.7 percent last month, from 5.5 percent in April.

The nation’s unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in May, down slightly from April.

In May 2004 Spokane County’s jobless rate was 6.0 percent. Over the past year — from May 2004 to May 2005 — Spokane gained 5,100 jobs, an increase of 2.5 percent, said state regional economist Jeff Zahir. About 2,100 jobs were gained just in the last month, he said.

“That growth (of 2.5 percent since last year) is significant,” Zahir said.

“We had projected growth at less than 2 percent. We’ve consistently exceeded this projection since January,” he said.

He attributed job growth to unusually strong activity in construction and retail trade. From April to May this year, Spokane gained about 600 construction jobs and 400 in retail trade, Zahir said.

Also showing big gains from April to May this year were food and drinking establishments (up 200) and government (up 200).

The only sectors to lose jobs in Spokane last month were durable goods manufacturing (down 100) and hospitals (also down 100).

As impressive as the past year has been for Spokane jobs, it’s still below the performance the county showed from May 2003 to May 2004. During that 12-month period Spokane added 3,800 jobs, a net gain of 3.8 percent, according to the state.

Statewide, Washington’s economy has nearly done as well as Spokane’s. Since May 2004, payroll employment in Washington increased by 55,900 jobs, or 2.1 percent, according to a press release.