Spokane County added 2,100 jobs in 2014, and unemployment fell from 7.9% in 2013 to 6.8% in 2014.
“As long as you don’t compare us to the state number, which is heavily dominated by the growth in Puget Sound,” says Steve Scranton, CIO at Washington Trust Bank, “our employment growth looks pretty good. Our job numbers, year-to-year, grew by 1.1%, compared to the US growth of 0.3%.”
He adds, “I know our job creation rate has been frustrating (about 1% per year for several years) but a very steady growth pattern builds a very strong foundation.”
“There has now been a three-year period in which Spokane County’s job-growth rate slightly exceeded that of the nation as a whole,” says Shaun O’L. Higgins, Managing Principal at The Oxalis Group, LLC. The county has added nearly 5,000 jobs since 2012.
Grant Forsyth, Chief Economist at Avista, notes, “I think our unemployment rate is declining because of job growth and no longer because people are dropping out of the work force. If I was to re-do the forecast I presented to GSI in November 2014, I would revise it upward for employment growth in 2015. It’s looking stronger than I had anticipated.”
Doug Tweedy, Regional Economist, Washington State Labor Market & Economic Analysis, concurs. “We are currently revising the fourth-quarter figures reported in this Business Barometer upward as more information comes in. We saw a real acceleration in job growth during the third and fourth quarters of 2014 and it is carrying over into 2015.”
Further good news, according to Tweedy, is that Spokane has laid a good foundation in five high-wage industries and “as these jobs gain traction, we are seeing the effects in job creation in retail and leisure & hospitality.”
However, Tweedy says, “We are starting to see some softening in construction jobs. But one big project can completely change that.”
On a positive note, health care was up by more than 1,000 jobs in 2014 and was the number one sector in employment growth. Tweedy says, “I was pleasantly surprised by the financial and insurance sector. With recent consolidation and headquarters moving out of the area, I expected some job decreases, but this sector has remained strong and has continued to add jobs.“