Tri-Cities see jobs grow in February

Tri-City HeraldMarch 25, 2014 

Pouring the concrete at the K-West Annex marked major progress in the construction of the facility that will support sludge retrieval and transfer to safe storage away from the Columbia River.

COURTESY CH2M HILL PLATEAU REMEDIATION COMPANY

— Hanford's better than expected budget helped add 600 professional and business services jobs in the Tri-Cities in February.

Overall, the Tri-Cities saw continued job growth in most industries between January and February.

Nonfarm Tri-City jobs grew to 101,800 in February, up by 2,800 jobs from the same month last year.

But despite adding 900 nonfarm jobs compared to January, the Tri-City unemployment rate climbed to 9.6 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department.

That's higher than the state's unemployment rate of 7.3 percent. Benton County's unemployment rate was 8.8 percent, while Franklin County's was 11.8 percent.

The rate increase is because nearly 2,000 more people joined the local workforce in February. That increased the total number of out of work job seekers to about 12,300, up 900 from the previous month. Still, that's almost 1,100 fewer people than the same month last year.

Hopefully in the next few months the Tri-Cities will see added jobs for those job seekers, said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist for Benton and Franklin counties.

The Tri-Cities is already seeing increased hiring for farming and leisure and hospitality jobs, as businesses prepare for the coming agricultural season and summer tourism, she said. Leisure and hospitality businesses added 400 jobs compared to the same month last year.

Local governments also have been adding jobs to prepare for summer, including for irrigation and parks work, Suljic said.

And construction and manufacturing have rebounded quickly, she said. Construction is up by 200 jobs and manufacturing grew by 300 jobs when compared to the same month last year.

Even professional and business services, which includes Hanford jobs, saw employers hiring more workers, she said. There is some increased confidence, thanks to the recent budget announcement for Hanford, and businesses that support construction and manufacturing also are growing.

Nonfarm jobs overall are up 2.8 percent compared to the same month last year, Suljic said. Only professional business services and retail trade remain down compared to last year. That reflects Hanford layoffs during the last three years and some winding down and cutbacks to retail jobs with the end of the holiday shopping season.

Farm jobs were up by 11 percent compared to February of last year, with more than 12,800 jobs in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties, according to the monthly agriculture employment and wage report.

Joe Perez, WorkSource Columbia Basin administrator, said his agency is starting to see some agricultural employers starting to hire for pruning and other work.

"There are quite a few jobs out there," he said.

Overall, more people are hunting for jobs and there are more jobs available, he said. Almost 1,200 job openings were listed on WorkSource Columbia Basin's website.

It's time for job seekers to start polishing up their resumes and coming to WorkSource for job hunt help, Perez said.

Upcoming hiring events

A number of hiring events are scheduled in the next few weeks.

-- On Wednesday, Halliburton is holding an informational session from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Pasco Red Lion for jobs in North Dakota gas fields.

-- A youth job fair is from noon to 3 p.m. April 4 at the Kennewick WorkSource office. So far 18 employers have committed to attending. Adults also are welcome to come get information about entry-level jobs.

-- Alaska processor Icicle Seafoods will hold a hiring event starting at 10 a.m. April 9 at the Kennewick WorkSource office.

-- Washington State Patrol will hold a career fair from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 11 at the Kennewick WorkSource office.

-- Alaska food processor E&E Foods will hold a hiring event 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 17 at the Kennewick WorkSource office.

February unemployment rates for area counties: Adams County, 11.2 percent; Columbia County, 10.8 percent; Grant County, 11.5 percent; Walla Walla County, 7.9 percent and Yakima County, 11.4 percent.

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

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