Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane employers expected to add 5,000 jobs again next year

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Employers are expected to add about 5,000 jobs countywide in 2018, which would be similar to this year’s expansion pace, says Doug Tweedy, the Spokane-based regional economist for the Washington state Employment Security Department.

At that clip, total employment would grow by 1.5 percent to 2 percent next year, Tweedy says.

Grant Forsyth, chief economist for Spokane-based Avista Corp., is projecting employment growth next year in the Spokane to be toward the bottom of Tweedy’s range, at about 1.5 percent. However, he’s expecting employment to grow at a faster pace, about 2 percent, in Kootenai County.

While projecting increases in overall employment, Forsyth says, “I expect employment growth overall to be a little slower. We have an aging expansion, and a lot of sectors have undergone their hiring surge.”

The jobless rate in Spokane County is projected to remain below 5 percent in 2018. With a couple of weeks left in the current year, Tweedy says, “We do expect the unemployment rate to average 4.7 percent in 2017. The last time it was under 5 percent was 2007.”

Nearly 30 percent of the jobs added in Spokane County this year are in the health care sector. With 1,400 new positions, the health care industry created twice as many new jobs as the next largest sector, according to Employment Security Department data.

The education sector, which includes private and public schools at all levels, added 700 jobs this year. Also, employment increased by 600 positions in the professional, technical, and scientific sector, which includes a diverse group of employers ranging from accounting firms and law firms to research-and-development companies. 

Speaking of the three sectors, Tweedy says, “These industries are solid for 2018, and health care and education are a good base to have. They can be down-cycle resistant.”

Another notable industry is transportation and warehousing, which added 400 jobs. 

“That could be a structural change,” he says. “As more people shop online, that merchandise has to be transported by trucks and air.”

Both Forsyth and Tweedy say some sectors will continue to struggle to find qualified workers.

“The challenge will be labor,” Tweedy says. “As more people retire and more jobs come on line, we’ll need people with a wide variety of skills.”

Nancy Nelson, president of Spokane Valley-based staffing company Humanix Corp., says the company has to invest more time and resources into finding qualified candidates for the positions it has to fill. That’s true, she says, for both private placement, for which Humanix helps employers find direct hires, and temporary-help services.

She says the current market makes securing workers on a contract-to-hire services basis more difficult, because many qualified candidates already are working. In a contract-to-hire arrangement, an employee works on a trial basis before a company commits to permanent employment.

“Even two years ago, we would have taken a contract-to-hire account. Now, we’re advising clients that those candidates are hard to find,” Nelson says.

—Linn Parish

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Editor Linn Parish has worked for the Journal of Business for a total of 15-plus years, dating back to 1998. A outdoors enthusiast and self-described sports geek, Linn has worked as a professional writer/editor for more than 20 years.

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