Low fuel prices and high consumer confidence propelled the Tri-City economy to its 36th consecutive month of job gains in March.
The area economy added 4,100 jobs in the 12 months that ended in March and 1,200 jobs relative to February, extending a streak that began three years ago.
Job gains were spread across a variety of industries, including trade/transportation (400 jobs), construction (200 jobs), retail (300 jobs), and local government (200 jobs), said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist for the Washington Employment Security Department.
Financial services added 200 jobs, including positions in real estate, banking and advisory services. Suljic said it’s her favorite statistic because it indicates overall economic strength.
132,055 civilian labor force
7.4% unemployment rate
“That’s echoing population growth and economic growth,” she said. “It’s a very telling number.”
The March unemployment rate was 7.4 percent. That’s unchanged from March 2015, but down from 8.1 percent in February. Month-to-month dips are common in the spring when construction and other business activities pick up, necessitating hiring.
Suljic said she’s not alarmed that the unemployment rate hasn’t changed from a year ago. The 4,100 new jobs were almost perfectly matched by 4,089 new workers in the area labor force.
The Tri-City economy tallied 109,100 nonfarm jobs in March and a total civilian labor force of 132,055, of whom 122,283 were employed. The number of people collecting unemployment in March dropped by 816 compared to February.
On a side note, Suljic said gasoline prices hovering around the $2.10 range could support job creation in almost every category by inspirng more spending on food, recreation, even homes and vacations.
“Consumers have a lot more confidence,” she said.