The private sector added 3,700 jobs to the regional economy over the past year, but it’s the growing departure of baby boomers from the workplace that may provide future opportunities to those looking for work.
Employers at the Hanford site and in manufacturing suffered job losses from August 2014 to August 2015. The construction, transportation, retail, education, health care and hospitality industries more than compensated with their own growth, according to recently released data from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
Turnover in current jobs, though, has also likely helped push the unemployment rate to 6 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2008.
“That’s one of the growing trends, companies replacing workers who are retiring,” said Doug Tweedy, a state economist based in Spokane. “Youth unemployment is real high so this gives an opportunity.”
The year-over-year increase in jobs indicates that the economy is continuing to improve, Tweedy said. That economic strength is further demonstrated by so many companies contributing new jobs to the market.
The total number of nonfarm jobs in Benton and Franklin counties was just over 107,000 in August, virtually unchanged from the month prior. That’s just under a thousand less than during the job market’s peak this year in June but is still among the most jobs the region has seen since before the recession.
Despite the lack of change in the total number of jobs in the region, there were about 600 fewer people listed as unemployed in August compared to July. Tweedy attributed that change to a few factors, such as agricultural workers leaving the area with the end of the growing season and perhaps some discouraged workers dropping out of job hunting altogether.
It’s a growing trend in the state that companies are now filling established positions as older workers retire, who are leaving either out of a sense of security about their savings and finances or out of difficulty in continuing to work.
“Even in health care, those are high stress jobs that you don’t see a lot of older people in,” he said. “It’s a good thing for job seekers.”
The Tri-City unemployment rate remains above the state average of 5 percent. Walla Walla County’s unemployment is at 5.2 percent, Adams County 5 percent, Grant County 5.4 percent and Yakima County 6.8 percent.
The unemployment rate is expected to stay steady or climb slightly in the coming months, Tweedy said, but that will be largely due to seasonal changes in the job market.