Hanford layoffs took a bite out of Tri-City employment in October, but some of the blow was softened by jobs added elsewhere.
The Tri-City area lost about 800 nonfarm jobs between September and October, according to data released Tuesday by the state Employment Security Department.
And the number of unemployed workers shot up by 1,490 to 10,440.
"It was expected, but nobody could have estimated how much," said Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist.
About 2,000 jobs were lost in Hanford layoffs as of October as the federal stimulus dollars ended.
Suljic said job increases in other business service industries such as employment services helped the economy. And the government sector saw a seasonal job growth of 800 jobs, which she attributed to local school positions that were not on the payroll during the summer.
A total of 123,500 out of 133,940 workers had jobs in October. The work force grew by 920 people compared with September.
The area's jobless rate remained under the state average of 9 percent, but grew to 7.8 percent in October from6.7 percent in September.
Benton County's unemployment rate bumped up to 7.9 percent from 6.7 percent, while Franklin County went from 6.8 percent to 7.7 percent in October.
In October, 6,064 workers were collecting unemployment benefits, according to Suljic's report. And 1,013 people had used up their benefits while 2,810 more applied.
Leisure and hospitality jobs dropped by 200, which Suljic said is a seasonal slowdown. But construction and manufacturing jobs stayed stable.
Educational and health services gained about 100 jobs in October, according to the state.
Tri-Cities Community Health, for example, is recruiting new providers, primarily family practitioners, said Linda Gustafson, the health center's board president.
She said it can be challenging to recruit doctors, although it's easy to keep them in the Tri-Cities once they are here.
The clinic currently has about 200 employees, with 16 providers, she said. About73 percent of the clinic's patients use Medicare or Medicaid.
"We've been very conservative because we anticipate state and federal cuts," Gustafson said.
And The Chaplaincy is recruiting a new in-home hospice team to help Spanish-speaking families now that the nonprofit has its new building at Spaulding Business Park in Richland, said Leslie Streeter, director of marketing for The Chaplaincy. A team includes a registered nurse, a nursing assistant, a chaplain and a social worker
The Chaplaincy simply didn't have the room to add another team at the old building, she said. A team works with a family to create a care plan for the person admitted into hospice along with the patient's doctor, and helps the family and patient establish goals and work toward them.
Currently, The Chaplaincy has about 130 employees, Streeter said.
"We are really excited about forming this new team and being able to really start to assist the Hispanic community in a bigger way," she said.
And retail employment saw no change in October but is expected to show gains for the holiday shopping season.
Apricot Lane boutique at Kennewick's Columbia Center mall already has hired seasonal employees to help deal with the holiday demand, said owner Bill Ackerman of Kennewick.
They tend to hire five to 10 new workers for the holidays, and have about 15 employees now, he said.
The locally owned store, which opened in 2009, gets much busier during the holiday season, Ackerman said.
Ackerman said the store has been so successful that he, his wife Jenny and their partners, Scott and Teri Lybbert, all of Kennewick, opened four more stores, in Spokane, California and Utah this year. And they plan to open five to 10 more stores next year.
Meanwhile, Suljic's report showed farm jobs were down by about 4.1 percent compared to September, with 18,060 workers, including Walla Walla County. Benton and Franklin counties make up about 75 percent of those jobs.
The agricultural season was longer than expected, with harvest stretching into November, she said.
Between the end of the agricultural season, some food processors winding down and the Hanford layoffs, Candice Bluechel, WorkSource Columbia Basin business services manager, said she expects to see more use of WorkSource Columbia Basin's resources.
They've seen fewer Hanford workers coming in for job search help than expected so far, she said. But a job fair held for Washington State University Tri-Cities students and Hanford workers was fairly successful, with more than 800 job seekers and 62 businesses looking for candidates with a variety of positions.
Bluechel said they also have seen job openings coming in for a variety of jobs and skill sets, in a time that is traditionally quiet when it comes to hiring.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com