The Tri-Cities has gained 3,000 nonfarm jobs over the past year.
The latest data, released Tuesday, shows that the area had 98,400 nonfarm jobs last month, up more than 3 percent since October 2008. And that's significant because of continued job losses elsewhere, said Dean Schau, regional labor economist.
"The Tri-Cities has its own cycles of ups and downs. We're definitely in an up cycle since 2000," he said.
The bulk of the job growth in the Tri-Cities from October 2008 to October 2009, was in the professional and business services sector, education and health services and local government, he said.
There was an overall increase of 500 jobs in October in the Tri-Cities -- there were 97,900 nonfarm jobs in September -- in part because of an increase in hiring by local school districts, Schau said.
In contrast, Washington statewide had 120,000 fewer jobs last month, a decline of 4.1 percent compared with October 2008. Nationally, jobs declined 4 percent during the same period.
A recent national survey said the Tri-Cities is one of 10 communities nationwide to have seen job growth in the last six months, said Gary Ballew, Richland's economic development manager.
Most local manufacturers are holding on their own despite disruptions in the national supply chain, he said. Also, the most recent data shows retail sales in Richland are at the same level as last year, though retail sales tax revenue from construction is down a bit, he said.
The slowdown in construction has more to do with a credit freeze instead of lack of local demand, Ballew said. "The Tri-Cities is not a bad spot to be in," he said.
The latest data doesn't surprise Carl Adrian, president and chief executive officer of the Tri-City Development Council. Stable jobs in energy production, food processing and at Hanford have kept the economy buoyant, he said.
He said federal stimulus dollars have fostered job growth, which in turn has kept local housing and retail industries relatively strong in the community.
But there's a potential for a minor decline in employment when stimulus money goes away, Adrian warned.
"We've to be mindful that we've got a little bubble going on right now. We should be careful we don't overextend," he said.
Over the year, employment declined in financial services, retail, leisure and hospitality and food services, Schau said. Last month, construction and food services lost 100 jobs each. The drop in food services may be related to the return of temporary student workers to school full-time, he said.
A decline of 200 jobs in the trade and warehousing sector last month was because of a seasonal slowdown in agri-processing business, he said. The sector's 16,500 jobs have remained stable since October 2008, he said.
Food processing and manufacturing, together with agriculture, have helped equip the community to deal with the downturn better than other areas, Schau said.
People are coming to the Tri-Cities to look for work, which makes job hunting more challenging for the unemployed, he said.
The number of unemployed workers in Benton and Franklin counties increased from 7,660 in September to 7,760 last month, bumping up the October unemployment rate to 5.9 percent. Last month, the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent and a year ago, it was 4.8 percent.
In October, Washington's unemployment rate increased to 9.3 percent in October, from 9.1 percent in September. Clark County had the state's highest unemployment rate of 13.7 percent and Pullman had the lowest at 4. 4 percent last month, when the national unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent.
w Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com