Spokane Journal of Business

Job growth to slow in ’08, but not drastically

  • Print Article

Job growth in Spokane County is expected to soften a bit as the regional economy starts to echo the national economic slowdown, but experts here say they dont anticipate the easing to be as dramatic here as in other regions of the U.S.

I see continued slowing in the regions economy, but were still doing better than the national economy overall, says Grant Forsyth, professor of economics at Eastern Washington University. A lot hinges on how consumers will respond to uncertainty in the economy.

According to preliminary state figures, 222,200 people were employed in Spokane County in October, up 5.3 percent from the year-earlier month. The number of people with Spokane-area jobs in 2007 has been running at close to 2.7 percent higher each month, which is below the 2006 average gain of about 3.2 percent, says Jeff Zahir, the Washington state Employment Security Departments Spokane-based regional economist.

Forsyth expects job growth will slow to roughly 1.9 percent next year. He predicts the unemployment rate in Spokane County will creep up above 5 percent in 2008 from the roughly 5 percent average this year.

Forsyth says he thinks theres a 35 percent to 40 percent chance of a national recession in the next 18 months, and if one occurs, Spokanes job growth numbers could slip further than his current predictions. Whether the U.S. enters a recession will depend largely on how the subprime market fallout affects consumers and the financial sector, he says.

Forsyth expects that the Northwest would fare better than other parts of the country if there were a recession, partly because the weak dollar is helping companies here that conduct business with foreign customers or that supply other U.S. companies involved in foreign trade.

As long as the recession doesnt reduce global economic growth and the dollar remains weak, that will benefit us, especially given our proximity to Canada, he says.

Zahir expects that job growth in 2008 will be mostly steady in the health-care, retail, and government sectors, largely because those industries made strong gains this year. Although the construction industry showed the strongest growth here this year, posting a 7.6 percent average growth rate and adding 980 jobs over last year, slowing home sales and a drop off in new building permits has led Zahir to believe the industry wont make similar gains in 2008.

Manufacturing job growth softened to 2 percent this year, compared with 5 percent in 2006, and recent declines in factory orders portend even slower growth in that sector next year, Zahir says. Forsyth adds, though, that manufacturers engaged in foreign trade should benefit from the weak dollar.

Despite the predictions that job growth will slow in 2008, a recent survey by the Spokane office of Manpower Inc. found that 23 percent of the Spokane-area employers interviewed planned to hire more employees in the first quarter of next year, the same percentage as last year.

Another 57 percent plan to maintain their current staffing levels, and 7 percent said they were unsure about their hiring plans. Thirteen percent expected to reduce their staffing levels, up from 3 percent last year.

I think its going to be steady, maybe just a little bit weaker, says Tom Droz, manager of the local Manpower office. There is a lot of gloom and doomsayers that think things will collapse, but recruiting is still as tight as its ever been.

  • Emily Proffitt

  • Follow RSS feed for Emily Proffitt

Read More

Sign up for our E-mail updates

including the
Morning Edition

Join our list