Effects of Hanford layoffs felt across region

By Kristi Pihl, Herald staff writerJanuary 23, 2013 

The Tri-Cities didn't see enough job growth in other industries to make up for job layoffs at Hanford this year.

Year-over-year growth in manufacturing, construction and government wasn't enough to wipe out the effect of Hanford layoffs, said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department.

Overall, Tri-City employment was down about 2.2 percent in December compared with December 2011, according to data released Wednesday by Employment Security.

A total of 116,510 Tri-Citians were employed during December, about 2,620 fewer than December the year before.

Professional and business services, where most Hanford jobs are reflected, were down by 9.5 percent from the previous year, according to the state.

The Tri-Cities' unemployment rate hit 9.7 percent in December, above the state's unemployment of 7.7 percent and the Tri-Cities' November rate of 8.3 percent.

Benton County's unemployment rate reached 9 percent in December, while Franklin County's rate was 11.5 percent.

The Tri-Cities also saw the typical seasonal slow down in industries such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing between November and December.

Overall, 12,490 Tri-Citians were out of work and actively looking for a new job in December, according to the state. While that was up by about 1,690 people from November, it was almost 2 percent fewer jobless than December 2011.

About 7,800 people were collecting unemployment benefits during December, Suljic said. Of those, 5,755 were receiving the regular benefits for weeks 1 to 27 of unemployment.

About 326 area residents used up all of their benefits in December, and about 1,700 people were approved for benefits and received their first unemployment check, she said.

Nonfarm jobs dropped to 97,100, a decline of 2.3 percent in December compared with the same time in 2011.

Construction was up 400 jobs in December compared with December 2011, while manufacturing grew by 100 jobs and government jobs increased by 200.

Manufacturing and construction have seen good growth during 2012, Suljic said.

Construction boomed in 2010, when the Tri-Cities' stable housing market led to a rush in investment, Suljic said. But then activity slowed at the end of 2011. During third quarter 2012, construction jobs picked up, growing enough to surpass the industry's December 2011 employment, she said.

While construction jobs remained below 2007 levels, she said the growth the Tri-Cities is seeing now is more actual growth instead of growth inspired by Hanford funding.

Manufacturing, which is mostly food processing, has seen growth through the years, Suljic said. It's dependent on agriculture, and when the area has a good season, food processing does too.

Retail was down by 100 jobs in December compared with December 2011, while hospitality saw 200 fewer jobs.

Seasonal agriculture work fell off in December, with an overall drop of 34 percent between November and December in agriculture-related jobs in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties, according to the state's Agricultural Labor Employment and Wages report. There still were about 1,890 seasonal farm jobs during December, which was 5,060 fewer jobs compared with November.

However, farm jobs at 10,270 in December remained up by 5 percent from December 2011, according to the report.

More people are coming to WorkSource Columbia Basin in search of jobs, said Michelle Mann, area manager. That's normal because this is the time when seasonal workers find themselves without a job.

Job listings continue at about the same number, with a good variety from food processing and health care to customer service and sales representatives, Mann said.

Washington State Patrol continues to look for new troopers, she said. The next information session is scheduled for March 8 at WorkSource Columbia Basin's Kennewick office, with the testing, including the physical test, on March 9.

Among those with active job listings with WorkSource Columbia Basin are Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Bechtel National, ConAgra Foods, Griggs Department Store, Lourdes Health Network and Kennewick General Hospital.

WorkSource Columbia Basin has a number of workshops offered to help job seekers with resumes and interviews, Mann said.

Unemployment rates for area counties in December were: Adams County, 10.9 percent; Columbia County, 10.4 percent; Grant County, 11.2 percent; Walla Walla County 7.3 percent and Yakima County 11.2 percent.

-- To submit business news, go to bit.ly/bizformtch.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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