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

Spokane County jobless rate climbs to 7 percent in January

Spokane County’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent in January, up from 6.3 percent in December, in part due to seasonal job losses in construction. (Jesse Tinsley / JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)

The unemployment rate in Spokane County climbed to 7 percent in January, up from 6.3 percent in December. The upward bump at the start of the year is typical due to seasonal job losses in leisure, hospitality and construction after the holidays.

Labor trends in the region remain positive, said Ajsa Suljic, an economist with the Washington Employment Security Department. Jobless rates generally have remained steady or declined even as more people enter the labor market, she said.

“All areas, including Spokane, are actually getting better in that unemployment rates are trending down. Not as fast as we see in the I-5 corridor, but we are seeing more people … come into the labor force market, especially in the second part of 2016,” Suljic said.

Even in January the region is seeing an influx of new workers, she said.

“Some of them have jobs, but most of them don’t have the jobs in January,” Suljic said. “But that’s not necessarily a bad thing if we see increases in the labor force and steady unemployment. It just means that there’s more confidence in finding jobs in local economies than they had before.”

January’s unemployment rate in the Spokane area is lower than it has been the past three years: 7.5 percent in 2016, 7.9 percent in 2015 and 8.2 percent in 2014. The lowest the county jobless rate got in the past three years was 5.6 percent last November. The highest was 8.5 percent in February 2014.

Unemployment rates at the county level are not seasonally adjusted because the sample size is too small to accommodate the additional analysis.

The statewide rate, however, is seasonally adjusted. The January jobless rate in Washington was 5.1 percent. The national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent in January.

The civilian labor force in Spokane County included 239,389 people in January, which is about 3,900 more than in January 2016. The number employed in January was 222,617, which is about 4,700 more than a year prior.

Most job sectors experienced growth over the past year. For example, education and health services grew by about 1,300 jobs, for a total of 49,300 in January. Employment in government rose by about 1,400 jobs, to 41,800 in January.

Almost all neighboring counties have higher unemployment. The January rate was 9.8 percent in Pend Oreille and Stevens counties, 12.5 percent in Ferry County, 7.2 percent in Lincoln County and 10.8 percent in Adams County.

Whitman County has one of the state’s lowest unemployment rates – 5.6 percent. King County had the lowest rate, 3.8 percent.

The state will release February employment numbers for the counties in two weeks.