Spokane County’s nonseasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.1% in April as hiring increased in the private sector, according to the Washington state Employment Security Department.
The Spokane metropolitan statistical area, which includes Spokane, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, added 2,600 nonfarm jobs and 2,000 private sector jobs from March to April, the department reported Tuesday.
“People are going back to work and employment is increasing. I think that’s a good thing,” said Doug Tweedy, a regional economist for the ESD. “Since we got out of the limited lockdown in January, we have seen continuing decreases in unemployment.”
In January, Spokane County was in Phase 1 of the state’s Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan, which restricted capacity at retailers and prohibited indoor dining. The county is currently in Phase 3, allowing 50% capacity at restaurants, retailers and indoor entertainment establishments.
The leisure and hospitality sector – industries hit hardest by the pandemic – had the greatest number of job gains, adding 1,100 jobs in April.
But the sector has not yet made a full recovery. It remains 1,700 jobs below the prepandemic employment level of 24,200 jobs in April 2019.
As consumer confidence improves, the food service and hospitality industry is expected to gradually recover jobs lost as a result of the pandemic, Tweedy said.
The professional and business services sector in the county gained 400 jobs, and the construction industry added 300 jobs last month. The government sector lost 300 jobs last month, while education and health services dropped 200.
While there appears to be an increase in layoffs in the public education sector, especially in sports-related jobs, there’s also been an uptick in hiring in the private education sector, Tweedy said.
The county’s unemployment rate was 6.4% in March and 16.4% in April 2020, the latter reflecting mass layoffs amid shutdowns at the pandemic’s onset in the region.