As summer eases into fall, the construction season is giving way to school hiring.
But even a shift in economic gears couldn’t interrupt the Mid-Columbia’s extended growth streak.
August marked the 41st month of consecutive annualized job growth for the Tri-City economy, according to Washington Employment Security Department’s monthly unemployment report, released Tuesday.
Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist, said it’s common for the economy to slow in August as construction projects start to wrap up and local schools remained on summer break. By October or November, school-related employment gains typically offset the construction-related losses.
“One thing goes down and another industry comes up,” she said.
This year, the continuing influx of jobs and job-seekers kept the expansion going. The Tri-City economy added 1,900 jobs in August relative to a year ago, an annualized growth rate of 1.8 percent.
The local unemployment rate for August was 6.5 percent, slightly below July’s 6.6 percent and above the 6.0 percent rate posted a year ago.
Annualized job growth in Washington
Spokane-Spokane Valley 3.6%
Walla Walla 0.7%
Suljic said the unemployment rate is less important than the number of people coming to the area in search of work.
“It’s very beneficial to our area to see people come in and participate in our labor force,” she said.
The private sector accounted for the vast majority of the net gain of 1,900 jobs in the past year. The construction industry was up 600 positions while the service sector, including leisure and hospitality, was up by 1,700.
The manufacturing sector dropped 400 jobs, largely the result of the continuing shutdown of CRF Frozen Foods in Pasco in April over a Listeria-tainted food recall, and the financial services sector shed 100 positions.
In real numbers, the Mid-Columbia boasted a total civilian work force of nearly 136,000 people in August, with about 127,000 holding jobs and nearly 8,900 actively seeking employment.
The Washington unemployment rate for August was 5.4 percent. The state added almost 102,000 jobs, for a total of almost 3.5 million jobs.