Spokane County’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% in April, driven mostly by a boost in construction jobs.
The county added more than 1,300 construction jobs in April, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
“Construction starts when the weather gets better. January, February and most of March was unseasonably harsh,” said Doug Tweedy, regional economist for the Washington State Employment Security Department. “Probably the most important part is (construction) did increase in March, but over the year, it’s up 1,500 jobs, which is a good sign for the economy.”
The professional and business services sector added 900 jobs in April, while 500 jobs were added in leisure, hospitality and food service.
The education and health service sector lost 800 jobs since March, while the retail trade sector experienced a loss of 300 jobs.
Spokane County’s unemployment rate was 6.5% in March and 5.1% in April 2018.
Nationally, job openings in April rose in construction, shipping and warehousing, health care, and restaurants and hotels, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Labor Department reported employers added 263,000 jobs in April, while the national unemployment rate fell to 3.6% – a 50-year low. At the time, it indicated there were 1.2 million more open jobs than there are unemployed Americans.
An increase in job openings is occurring in Spokane as well, Tweedy said.
“We’re seeing spot labor shortages – not across the board – but in certain industries, and the reason why we are seeing some shortages is the number of new jobs that have been created and placement needs for people retiring,” he said.
The health services, education and skilled trade sectors show a high level of demand for workers in Spokane County, Tweedy said.
Washington employers created more than 13,500 jobs in April, leading to a slight increase in the unemployment rate to 4.7%, with private sector employment increasing by more than 11,800 jobs, according to seasonally adjusted data from the state employment department.
The top five in-demand jobs in Spokane County are registered nurses, nursing assistants, speech pathologists, heavy tractor-trailer drivers and physical therapists, according to the Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine data series, which provides a measure of labor demand from online job ads.
Tweedy said unemployment insurance claims for laid-off workers are typically an indicator of job growth.
“In April, layoffs decreased, and that’s a good sign for 2019,” he said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.