Spokane Journal of Business

Jobs to continue to grow here, though possibly at slower rate


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The employment market here is expected to continue to improve in 2014 after beating expectations this year.
The rate of growth, however, might not keep pace with this year, says Grant Forsyth, regional labor economist for Spokane-based Avista Corp. He’s projecting a 1.5 percent increase in employment next year in Spokane and Kootenai counties, which would be a somewhat slower pace than the estimated 2 percent job growth this year.
Forsyth says the better-than-expected increase in jobs this year—in late 2012, he predicted 1 percent increase in employment—largely was due to some industries ramping back up, finally emerging from the protracted economic slump.
For example, Forsyth says, “On the construction side, they did a lot of hiring and built up their crews this year. We benefited from that initial surge in hiring, but I wouldn’t expect that same surge again.”
Doug Tweedy, Spokane-based regional labor economist for the Washington state Employment Security Department, says the 2013 projected average annual unemployment rate for Spokane County is 7.9 percent, which is almost a full percentage point lower than the 8.8 percent annual average unemployment rate in 2012.
Equally as encouraging, Tweedy says, is that initial clients for unemployment—those who have never filed for unemployment in Washington state before—are at prerecession levels and have been for most of the second half of the year.
“As less people are laid off and more jobs are added, that sets us up for a good 2014,” Tweedy says.
Much of the job growth has involved higher-paying jobs, Tweedy says, in skilled trades and health care fields. He points to the Washington State University Spokane pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences building that opened earlier this month on the Riverpoint Campus as one strong job creator that has staffed up with faculty and brought more researchers to the region.
“Good-paying jobs have a good multiplier in that those jobs are creating other jobs, and that’s continuing,” Tweedy says.
Forsyth says he expects job growth next year in all three broad employment sectors: private services, goods producing, and government.
Of the three, the area of greatest concern is the government sector, Forsyth and Tweedy both say.  Local and state government should have small amounts of job growth, but uncertainty surrounds the federal government, they say.
While the government ended its shutdown in October and has a new long-range budget agreement in the works,  another budget debate is expected to occur in early 2014.
“They still have a lot of hard choices to make, and my guess is we’ll see some declines (in jobs) there,” Forsyth says.
Tweedy says the uncertainty affects private contractors who have the federal government as a client, as well as the individual agencies themselves.
“It’s real hard to plan for the future,” he says.

Linn  Parish
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Editor Linn Parish has worked for newspapers and magazines since 1996, with the bulk of that time being at the Journal. A Montana boy who has called Spokane home for some time now, Linn likes Northwest trails, Deep South foods, and lead changes in the ninth inning.

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