Steady growth in the private sector is helping offset a decline in government jobs in the Tri-Cities.
Last month, the area lost about 900 government jobs, but job growth in administrative and support services, health services, manufacturing and the trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities sector reduced the net loss to 200 nonfarm jobs compared with July.
The same scenario played out in the state, where the private sector picked up 900 jobs, helping narrow the August job loss to 2,000 -- offsetting the loss of an estimated 2,900 government jobs -- and to help keep the state's unemployment rate steady at 8.9 percent.
In the Tri-Cities, the 100,400 nonfarm jobs in August showed a 3.7 percent annual growth. Industries that added employment over the year included professional and business services, retail trade, health services, and the trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities sector, said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist.
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The local economy still is doing fairly well, though employers remain cautious in hiring, Suljic said.
Consumers remain reluctant to spend their money, she said in explaining the monthly loss of about 100 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector. Jobs in construction, finance and food services remained stable.
Employers remain conservative, but they are hiring, said Candice Bluechel, business services outreach manager at WorkSource Columbia Basin in Kennewick. WorkSource is a state-funded agency that helps businesses find workers and helps the unemployed get short-term training.
The unemployment rate for the Tri-Cities edged down to 6.4 percent in August from 6.5 percent in July. The August rate was three-tenths of a percentage point lower than the August 2009 rate of 6.7 percent.
About 8,880 workers were unemployed out of the total labor force of 139,490 last month. That may be linked partly to declines in agricultural employment, which was down 2,961 jobs in August from July. It was a seasonal decline, Suljic said.
Total employment in agriculture in August generally averaged about 11,000 in previous years. The hiring of 14,164 ag workers in August 2009 was unusually high because of an exceptional growing season last year, she said.
Ag job losses will continue through the middle of October, said Bluechel.
"Only apples and grapes are left to be picked," she said.
But she sees a lot of non-Hanford jobs being advertised. Most of them are traditional jobs such as drivers, medical technicians, administrative/ office positions and machinists/fabricators, Bluechel said. But what she hears from employers is assuring: They'll hire sooner than later.
"I've got my fingers crossed." she said.
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com