The Tri-City unemployment rate hit its lowest point of the year in September, driven by education-related hiring at the start of the 2016-2017 school term.
Unemployment is traditionally low in September as school resumes and educators and other school staff return to the employment rolls, said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist for the Washington Employment Security Department.
The Tri-City unemployment rate was 5.9 percent, up from 5.5 percent one year ago but the lowest rate posted to date for 2016, according figures released Tuesday by the department. Washington’s unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.
“The driving force is education jobs are back online,” Suljic said.
Local government, which includes school districts, added 700 jobs between August and September. It’s a pattern that repeats itself every fall.
“Every year, same time!” she said.
5.9 % unemployment rate
135,792 work forceSource
On a year-to-year basis, the service sector posted the largest gains. The broad category covers agriculture-related trade and transportation as well as retail. It added 800 jobs in the past year. Construction added 600 jobs thanks to ongoing investments in home building, commercial facilities and public projects such as new schools.
The leisure and hospitality industry added 400 jobs as new stores opened. A notable example is the new Ross Dress For Less that opened in late September at Vintner Square, and the Target-anchored retail center at Richland’s Queensgate district.
In all, Tri-Ciy economy has grown by 2,200 jobs in the past year, pushing total employment to 110,700 workers. The gains continue a growth streak that began more than three years ago.
Suljic jokes the expansion has become routine..
“I didn’t count it this time. I’m not sure it’s 41 or 42 months,” Suljic said. “That’s awesome. I lost track of it.”
September seems to be the month that everybody gets back to it
Carl Adrian, Tri-City Development Council
Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC) said the streak would be closer to a nation-leading 80-months but for the nearly $2 billion directed to Hanford by the American recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the “Stimulus Package.”
The money caused a spike and then fall off as workers were laid off at the end of the stimulus work.
“But for that hump, we would be one of the top (growth markets) in the country,” he said.
174 Benton County
69 Franklin County
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Adrian said signs of growth are on display throughout the community in the form of construction.
It’s not just anecdotal. Tri-City permitting agencies signed off on more than $785 million in new construction through September, nearly 19 percent more than the $660 million approved in the same period last year.
“September seems to be the month that everybody gets back to it,” Adrian said.