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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane economy gains jobs in key areas

The number of people working in the Spokane area is up, and the unemployment rate is down and close to the state average, according to the latest report from the state Employment Security Division.

That signals good news for the local economy as a whole, labor economist Doug Tweedy said, but particularly for workers involved in construction, health care and technology. Job prospects for teens and young adults looking for summer work on their break from high school or college also are promising.

Among the most positive indicators, Tweedy added, is the growth in workers between 22 and 26 years old, who are coming to Spokane for new jobs.

“It’s a very good sign,” he said. “When you have a regional job market that’s growing, you’re starting to attract that cohort.”

They are being drawn to Spokane by jobs that pay better than average in a more diversified employment base. “It’s a good array of industries and jobs that can keep our kids here,” Tweedy said.

The unemployment rate for Spokane County was 5.9 percent in May, which is significantly higher than the 4.4 percent in the superheated job market of King County, but closer to the state’s 5.5 percent. When Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, which are part of the Spokane metropolitan statistical area, are added in, unemployment for the northeast corner of the state is 6.1 percent.

But the region had 241,800 people working in May, which was 6,500 more than a year ago. About a third of that growth was in health care jobs, which include hospitals, clinics and assisted living facilities. It also added about 700 construction jobs between April and May, as companies geared up for the summer construction season. About 700 jobs were added over the last year in the professional sector – which covers everything from legal and accounting firms to research and development connected to the new Washington State University medical school – and another 500 over that period in warehousing and transportation.

The biggest percentage drop was in the information sector, which lost 9 percent, or about 300 of its jobs, in the last year. That sector was mixed, with losses in traditional information businesses like news media and publishing, and some growth in data processing, web design and internet services.

The May employment report is often an indicator for the year as a whole, as the local economy often has to adjust to summer reductions at schools and colleges. But those job sectors increased over last year, possibly because schools are doing more summer camps for education and sports, Tweedy said.

An increase in jobs in May “speaks well for the rest of the year,” he said.

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