The Tri-Cities continued its job growth streak, hitting its 17th consecutive month of year-over-year job growth in August.Job gains in health care, construction, retail, food services and professional and business services have helped the Tri-Cities recover from the employment lows of the previous two years.
Nearly 126,200 Tri-Citians were employed last month, up by about 4,800 from the same time last year, according to data released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department.
Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist for Benton and Franklin counties, is hopeful the upward trend will continue. The Tri-Cities hit a low point in employment during 2012 and 2013 because of Hanford layoffs, she said.
Now, construction has picked up in answer to the demand for new homes and commercial buildings, Suljic said. Retailers also added jobs in response to increased spending. That’s a double bonus because it means local cities also will see more sales tax revenue to help pay for city services such as police and parks.
Despite job gains, the Tri-City unemployment rate inched up to 5.9 percent, above the state average August unemployment of 5.7 percent.
That’s because not all of the more than 2,200 people who joined the local labor force last month were able to find jobs.What this means is that more than 7,900 Tri-Citians were out of work and actively job hunting, about 2,300 fewer than the same time last year.
Agriculture jobs have helped push down Franklin County’s unemployment rate from 9 percent earlier this year to 5.8 percent in August, Suljic said. Benton County, with an unemployment rate of 6 percent in August, is less affected by seasonal farm jobs.Apples, hops, potatoes and other crops were being harvested across the Mid-Columbia last month. The first wine grapes also were harvested by hand and machine.
Nonfarm industries added 2,200 jobs in August compared to the same time last year, reaching 105,000 jobs.
Industries that saw strong year-over-year growth included construction, up 400 jobs; retail, up 800 jobs; professional and business services and food service, up by 500 jobs each; and education and health services, up 600 jobs.
Major local health care providers have expanded both primary and urgent care services, Suljic said. Local health care officials have said the Tri-Cities is becoming more of a regional hub for medical needs.
“Those are well paid jobs and good for our area,” Suljic said.
Retail likely will continue to climb, since the August numbers don’t include the hiring Marshalls is doing now for its new Richland store, which is under construction in the Queensgate area. Marshalls will hold the second day of its hiring event starting at 9 a.m. Sept. 24 at Kennewick’s WorkSource Columbia Basin office.
More than 1,580 Tri-City job openings are being advertised on WorkSource’s website. Most are full-time jobs, with top fields being health care practitioner, technical and support jobs, sales and related occupations, production, transportation, installation, maintenance and repair and office and administrative support.
August unemployment rates for area counties: Adams County, 5.1 percent; Columbia County, 6.8 percent; Grant County, 5.9 percent; Walla Walla County, 5 percent; and Yakima County, 7.1 percent.
-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming Tri-City hiring events
- 9 a.m. Sept. 24: Marshalls at Kennewick’s WorkSource Columbia Basin office, 815 N. Kellogg St., Kennewick
- 8 a.m. Oct. 2: GBW Railcar Services at the WorkSource Columbia Basin office.
- 1 p.m. Oct. 16: UniSea, recruiting for seafood processing positions in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, at the WorkSource Columbia Basin office.
- 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 17: Washington State Patrol at the WorkSource Columbia Basin office.
For workshops and other hiring events, go to Go2WorkSource.com.