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More Tri-Citians were out of work in January but the economy is still revving

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If you are laid off from your job, then you may be eligible for unemployment insurance, but you must abide by the rules. Some people misunderstand their legal responsibilities when they receive these benefits, which can lead to a commission of fraud.
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If you are laid off from your job, then you may be eligible for unemployment insurance, but you must abide by the rules. Some people misunderstand their legal responsibilities when they receive these benefits, which can lead to a commission of fraud.

Tri-Cities unemployment jumped in January, but the annual mid-winter slump can’t conceal job gains in the Mid-Columbia.

The local unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in January, according to figures released Tuesday by the Washington Employment Security Department.

That’s up from 6.5 percent in December but below the 7.4 percent rate posted a year ago.

January is typically the worst month for Tri-City employment because of slowdowns in agriculture and construction.

If trends hold in 2019, unemployment will fall through September, then begin its cold weather climb later in the year.

While unemployment rates fluctuate monthly, the annual picture offers a more distinct picture of long-term growth.

Tri-Cities jobs growing

The Tri-Cities economy has been expanding since 2013.

State figures indicate the market has added 10,000 jobs in the past two years, rising to about 130,700 positions in January, from about 120,700 in 2017.

In all, there were 140,800 people in the local labor force in January, with nearly 10,100 actively seeking work.

The growth in the labor force and the growth in jobs is a positive sign, said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist.

All sectors are showing bumps.

“People are finding jobs. There’s demand,” she said.

Snowstorm slowdowns

The late-winter snowstorms that have bedeviled the Tri-Cities since early February could pose a short-term drag on the economy as the traditional start to the construction and agricultural seasons is delayed.

Suljic said unemployment claims rose in late January and February when the first snow hit. Those claims could bump up the unemployment rate for February when numbers are released later in the month.

Statewide, the unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, up from 4.8 percent in January but below 5.4 percent a year earlier.

Elsewhere: Bellingham (5.5 percent), Bremerton (5.3 percent), Grant County (9.8 percent), Longview (6.9 percent), Seattle Metro (3.8 percent), Spokane Valley (6.8 percent), Walla Walla (6.3 percent) and Yakima (9.8 percent).

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