Tri-City job growth finally overcame the Hanford job losses last month.
The area saw nonfarm jobs grow by 2,500 compared to May of last year, before about 2,000 Hanford jobs were lost.
But despite gains in nonfarm and farm employment, the Tri-Cities saw unemployment increase to 9 percent in May from 8.6 percent in April, according to data released by the state Employment Security Department Tuesday.
About 12,200 people were out of work and actively searching for a new job in May, 2,210 more than the same time last year.
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The Tri-City area remained above the state unemployment rate of 8.4 percent. Benton County's unemployment was at 8.7 percent in May, while Franklin County's was 9.8 percent.
Nonfarm and farm jobs saw growth compared to last year, but total employment at 122,930 in May meant 1,110 fewer people were working in the Tri-Cities than in May 2011.
Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist, said the Tri-Cities saw the labor force grow by about 1,100 people compared to last year. Despite the job gains, it wasn't enough for added workers to find jobs.
The Tri-Cities saw some seasonal job growth, with a total of 1,700 jobs added between April and May, Suljic said.
While professional and business services still show a job loss of 1,800 in May compared to May 2011, mostly attributed to Hanford layoffs, Suljic said other industries grew enough to make up for those lost jobs.
About 2,000 jobs were lost at Hanford by fall 2011, and contractors have continued to make cuts since then.
The largest job growth in May compared to May 2011 was seen in trade, transportation and utilities, with 1,700 jobs added, 600 of them from retail.
Suljic said it is a good indicator of economic stability to see continued growth in retail and leisure and hospitality, which added 100 jobs compared to last year.
Manufacturing and construction also grew by 300 jobs each compared to May 2011. Suljic said seeing an increase in construction jobs is a signal of a stable real estate market.
Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties saw farm jobs up by 7.6 percent in May compared to the same month last year. A total of 12,730 people were working on area farms, an increase of about 900 workers.
Asparagus harvest was in full swing during May, but Tri-City farmers had fewer workers than they needed.
Bryan Lynch, co-owner of LF Farms north of Pasco, said asparagus harvest went fairly well, although he was short by about 50 workers. He had about 250 workers for his 400 acres.
Lynch said that despite the labor issues, harvest this year was better than last year. He expected to cut the last of his asparagus this week.
WorkSource Columbia Basin has seen an increase in people coming to its Kennewick office, said Michelle Mann, area manager. She attributes the higher traffic to agricultural hiring, some hiring events, a higher unemployment rate and the office calling in those on longer-term unemployment for assistance.
The office is helping about 2,600 to 2,700 people a month, she said.
Job listings have been steady and have a good fill rate, Mann said.
"We are getting the jobs filled as we get them in," she said.
Other area counties' unemployment rates in May were:
Adams County, 8.9 percent; Columbia County, 10.4 percent; Grant County, 10 percent; Walla Walla County, 7.4 percent; Yakima County 10.8 percent.