Tri-Cities unemployment ticked up in November, though 2015 remained a strong year for job growth.
The unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent, up from 5.7 percent in October, according to numbers released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department.
The change was expected because of annual winter slowdowns in agriculture and construction, said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist with the state.
“Everything is on hold for agriculture activity,” she said.
The Kennewick-Pasco-Richland metropolitan statistical area lost 785 total jobs, including farm workers, between October and November. But that decrease is less than it has been in recent years. The area lost 2,772 jobs during the same time period in 2014 and 3,143 in that period in 2013.
The largest month-to-month decreases outside of farming were seen in goods producing and manufacturing.
The decreases in recent years have been just as steep between November and December, so Suljic expects to see another unemployment rate increase of at least a percentage point announced in January.
They are not high-paying jobs, but they are jobs people can make a living on.
Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist, talking about new retail jobs
But the end-of-the -ear slump shouldn’t dampen 2015 in the Mid-Columbia, Suljic said. Between November 2014 and November 2015, the area added 5,000 nonfarm jobs and saw its unemployment rate drop by a point-and-a-half. The area now has 108,100 people in nonfarm positions.
New schools and medical buildings opened in the Tri-Cities, helping education and health services jobs grow by 400 since last year. Another 700 jobs came in manufacturing, while new restaurants led to 500 jobs in food and beverage services.
Retail added 300 new jobs since November 2014 and 400 in the past month, though some of those are likely temporary holiday positions.
“They are not high-paying jobs, but they are jobs people can make a living on,” Suljic said.
The 6.5-percent unemployment rate is the lowest the Tri-Cities has seen for November since 2008, when it was 5.7 percent.
November 2015 was the Tri-Cities’ 32nd consecutive month of year-over-year job growth.
The Tri-Cities’ unemployment rate remained above the statewide rate, which increased to 5.4 percent in November from 5 percent a month earlier.
Individually, Benton County had a 6.1 percent unemployment rate, Franklin County 7.4 percent, Yakima County 8 percent, Grant County 7 percent and Walla Walla County 5 percent.