Spokane Journal of Business

Jobs added here at a fast clip

Employment growth in 1997 was largest so far this decade

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Employment in the Spokane area rose 4 percent in 1997the biggest year-to-year gain in jobs in the 1990s, according to the latest full-year figures from the state of Washington.

Last year, the number of people employed in the Spokane area rose to an annual average of 197,400, up 7,600 from the average of 189,800 people employed here in 1996, the figures say.

Its a validation of the strength of our economy, says Washington Water Power Co. economist Randy Barcus.

Until now, during the other years in the decade, employment growth here varied from a low of 0.5 percent in 1991 to a high of 3.5 percent in 1993, according to the full-year figures compiled by the state Employment Security Department. The number of jobs added in a single year during that time ranged from 800 to 6,100. The Spokane area had no years of declining average employment.

The figures depict an annual average of those employed among the resident civilian labor force in the Spokane metropolitan area. Fred Walsh, an Employment Security Department labor economist based in Spokane, says the numbers are gathered in a household survey conducted by the state.

Employment gains in 1997 were seen across the boardwith growth in construction, wholesale and retail trade, services, and other sectors, Barcus says. The real estate, finance, and insurance sector remained stable as did government employment, he says. The opening of the Spokane Valley Mall in August last year added to the retail figures, Barcus adds.

Im really pleased about the breadth of the employment growth, he says.More strong growth expectedThe strong job growth appears to be continuing so far this year. Preliminary figures compiled by the state say 200,100 people were employed here in March, up 3.5 percent from the 193,300 who were employed here in March 1997.

Barcus predicts that employment here will grow at least 2 percent during 1998 and likely will come in closer to 3 percent in the final analysis. That would be dramatically higher than the rate of growth for the nation, he says. Barcus forecasts that for the next five years employment in the Spokane area will grow at 1.5 times the national growth rate.

Statistics kept by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as 1997 ended, the Spokane area was more than holding its own among the top 257 metropolitan areas in the U.S. in terms of employment growth.

The bureau says that percentagewise, the Spokane area ranked 11th in growth of employed civilians and 20th in labor force growth during the month of December in comparison with December 1996. The Seattle area led all metropolitan areas in growth in both categories.

  • Marlene Mehlhaff

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