Washington state's jobless rate at 7.3% - 220,500 people presently unemployed - Spokane County jobless rate up to 6.9%

From staff and wire reports


Washington's unemployment rate leveled off in May, but Spokane County's jobless rate rose to 6.9 percent, state officials said Tuesday.

The state's jobless rate was 7.3 percent in May, the same as in April. But the county's unemployment rate increased from 6.8 percent to 6.9 percent last month.

One year ago, the jobless rate in the county was 7 percent.

Both the state and county numbers are seasonally adjusted to take into account job shifts tied to construction, tourism and spring employment swings.

Without the adjustment, Washington's unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month, to 7.1 percent. One year ago, the unadjusted number was 7.2 percent.

Spokane County's unadjusted rate in May was 6.3 percent.

One area economist said May's jobless rate halted a nine-month trend of gradual job gains in Spokane County.

In August 2002, the county's jobless rate was 7.3 percent. Since then, the county's adjusted rate steadily declined until May of this year, said Randy Barcus, Avista Corp. chief economist.

"This downturn reverses a promising declining trend in seasonally adjusted rates," said Barcus.

The major source of Spokane's job losses last month occurred in the manufacturing sector. Between April and May, Spokane lost about 1,300 manufacturing jobs, according to the monthly survey.

About 100 jobs were lost in the food and beverage business, and another 100 in "information" companies -- a new job category that includes media, advertising and publishing.

Another 100 county jobs were lost in transportation.

Spokane County saw modest gains in health and social services -- up 400 jobs; and in federal government, up 200.

Spokane's wholesale trade category also saw a gain of about 200 jobs in May.

The state rate, covering May, compares with a 6.1 percent national unemployment rate, but is better than neighboring Oregon's 8.2 percent rate. The two states and Alaska have had some of the country's worst unemployment rates for the past two years.

Washington officials report 220,500 people -- out of a work force of about 3.1 million -- were out of work in May.


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