The Tri-Cities started off the new year with more hopeful and successful job seekers.
Many of those new job seekers were able to find work in January, thanks to continued year-over-year job gains in construction, manufacturing, health care and education.
That’s something Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist for Benton and Franklin counties, said she finds encouraging for the local economy.
January marked the 22nd month of year-over-year job growth for the Tri-Cities, according to Employment Security Department data released Tuesday.
About 115,700 Tri-Citians had jobs in January, up by about 3,600 from the same month last year.
The local labor force climbed to about 128,400 Tri-Citians in January, up by nearly 4,000 workers. That is a substantial increase, Suljic said.
Many of the new job seekers have been able to find work, Suljic said. The number of unemployed Tri-Citians was up by about 400 people from the same time last year, despite the increases in job seekers.
The number of Tri-Citians out of work and actively job hunting reached about 12,700 in January. The January unemployment rate was 9.9 percent, identical to the same month last year.
Benton and Franklin counties remained above the average state unemployment rate of 7 percent, with rates of 9.1 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively.
Nonfarm industries reached 104,200 jobs in January, up by 3,500 jobs over the year.
“Almost all industries have added jobs,” Suljic said.
Growth has occurred in construction, retail trade, financial activities, education, health care and leisure and hospitality.
Manufacturing, education and health services and administrative and support services, which includes Hanford jobs, were tied for most jobs added, with about 600 jobs each year-to-date.
Growth momentum in manufacturing appears to be continuing, Suljic said. It also appears Hanford jobs will be stable, at least for much of this year.
Employment did dip slightly in January compared to the previous month, mostly as a result of cold weather, she said. The Tri-Cities was down by 600 jobs, with seasonal declines seen in retail, leisure and hospitality and construction work.
The number of open jobs is slightly up this month compared to January and February, said Jack Fitzgerald, WorkSource Columbia Basin administrator.
WorkSource Columbia Basin lists about 1,500 jobs in Benton and Franklin counties at www.go2worksource.com. Most are full-time jobs. Occupations with the most job openings include architecture and engineering, health care practitioner and technical positions, office and administrative staff, sales and related jobs and transportation and material moving.
WorkSource Columbia Basin continues to see more job seekers looking for help compared to previous months, Fitzgerald said.
January unemployment rates for area counties were: Adams County, 12.3 percent, Columbia County, 9.5 percent, Grant County, 11.7 percent, Walla Walla County, 8.2 percent and Yakima County, 12.3 percent.