The Tri-City economy hit its 38th consecutive month for growth in May, but the momentum is slowing.
Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist for the Washington Employment Security Department, said the slowdown signals that the Tri-City economy has gained back the jobs lost in 2011. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the Stimulus Act, steered nearly $2 billion to Hanford. When it ended, so too did the jobs that went with it.
Suljic said the local economy is now seeing growth rates that mirror state and national levels.
The Tri-City unemployment rate for May was 6.3 percent, a 7 percent drop from 6.8 percent in May 2015. The labor force added nearly 2,400 people compared to a year ago while the number of jobs grew by nearly 3,000 positions.
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6.1% Benton County
5.5% Washington state
Suljic attributed the growth to trade and transportation, warehousing, education, leisure, professional services and healthcare. The construction and manufacturing industries contributed as well. Together they add up to a welcome burst of diverse activity.
Franklin County in particular benefited from seasonal demand for workers in the agricultural and food manufacturing industry. In May, CRF Frozen Foods laid off about 250 workers after it products were linked to a Listeria outbreak that sickened eight customers.
Suljic said the layoffs haven’t translated into a large number of unemployment claims. CRF employees found work in agriculture or other food processing plants, she speculated.
“There’s a lot of shifting back and forth in that regard,” she said.