Although seasonal fluctuations bumped the Tri-City area's unemployment rate by almost 1 percent in January, the number of nonfarm jobs grew by 3.3 percent over January 2010.
The nonseasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Benton and Franklin counties was 8.8 percent, up from 7.9 percent in December, according to numbers released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department.
The winter dip in nonagricultural and agricultural jobs is typical, said Ajsa Suljic, a regional labor economist, in a news release. As the number of agricultural jobs falls, related jobs in food manufacturing, transportation and warehousing also usually decline, she said.
But managers at two local food processing plants said they didn't see that happen in January.
Rex Lee, human resources manager at Reser's Fine Foods in Pasco, said his plant actually added five full-time positions in January, raising the number of employees from 183 to 188.
Positions were added to improve product quality, Lee said. The plant mainly processes potatoes into processed foods served at restaurants or sold at stores.
Dave Sanford, vice president of human resources for Kennewick-based ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston, said he saw no significant change in employment at the company's local plants.
His company, which produces frozen potato products, employs about 2,000 people at plants in Pasco, Richland, Connell and Paterson, and in its Kennewick corporate office.
According to Suljic, nonfarm employment fell by 1,400 jobs in Benton and Franklin counties in January.
The number of private nonfarm jobs dropped by 1,600, while the number of government jobs increased by 200.
The biggest loss was in the trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities sector, which shed 700 jobs. The construction sector lost 300 jobs.
State government was the only sector that grew, adding 200 jobs. Employment in education and health services, professional and business services and financial activities didn't change.
Year-over-year figures paint a rosier picture of the local economy. Nonfarm payrolls grew by 3,100 jobs from January 2010 and January 2011.
Job growth was up in almost all sectors except two, according to Suljic. About 600 jobs were lost in the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector. More than 100 were cut in the federal government.
And although the state and national economies are struggling to recover from the recession, the Tri-Cities didn't experience any notable downturn in employment, Suljic reported.
Based on yearly nonfarm employment averages, Tri-City employment grew by an estimated 13.4 percent from January 2007 to January 2010.
Most of the growth can be attributed to federal stimulus dollars allocated for Hanford cleanup, Suljic wrote. In Benton County, the jobless rate was 8.1 percent for January, and in Franklin County 10.6 percent.
Elsewhere in the Mid-Columbia, the state reported the jobless rate was 8.5 percent in Walla Walla County, 11.6 percent in Yakima County, 12.7 percent in Columbia County, 13.3 percent in Grant County and 14.7 percent in Adams County.
On a statewide level, seasonally adjusted unemployment rates dropped 0.2 percent from December 2010 to January, down to 9.1 percent.
The national rate edged down by four-tenths of a percent to 9 percent. Overall, state and national indicators are showing some growth in the economy, Suljic wrote.
She foresees, however, that growth will be slow and the recovery will take time.