Government Jobs Drop Jobless Rate for March


Yakima, WA - 4/24/03 - Yakima County's March jobless rate fell to its lowest number in 22 years, but it's not necessarily anything to cheer about.

Economists say most of the job gains are not spread throughout the Valley but are due to local government increases, mainly the Yakama Nation.

The county posted a March unemployment rate of 11.2 percent, down from 12.4 percent the year before and from 12.2 percent in February, according to figures released this week by the state Employment Security Department.

The last time the county saw a March rate so low was in 1980, when it was the same as this year.

The month gained 200 nonagricultural jobs over the year, for a slight 0.3 percent increase.

"It's a good sign, but it's not a cause for wild optimism," said Don Meseck, a regional economist who covers Yakima County for Employment Security.

In the last year, the county added 700 local government jobs, which includes the county, cities, towns and the Yakama Nation.

"It would be much better if the gains were spread among several industries, like construction, manufacturing and retail," he said.

Instead, the Yakama Nation saw most of the increases. Meseck said he didn't know if the boost came from sawmill or casino jobs, or from some other tribal enterprise.

Manufacturing lost 400 jobs, mostly due to a decline in food processing, he said.

Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent, down from 7.8 percent a year ago and from 7.6 percent in February.

It gained jobs in construction, government, professional and business services, and education and health.

Logging, manufacturing and information sectors all saw slight declines.

In Benton County, the March rate stood at 6.8 percent, down from 9.4 percent a year ago and from 7.5 percent in February.

Klickitat County's rate was 15.6 percent, down from 16.7 percent a year ago and from 16.9 percent in February. Kittitas County's figure was 8 percent, down from 8.3 percent a year ago and 8.7 percent in February.

n Reporter Dori Harrell can be reached by phone at 577-7693, or by e-mail at


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