By Ajsa Suljic, Employment Security’s labor economist covering Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin counties
Each month, the Employment Security Department releases statewide and county employment and unemployment data for the previous month. Find more labor-market data and analysis on the Employment Security website.
In the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which equals Benton and Franklin counties, May’s preliminary numbers show growth in nonfarm employment reached 107,200 jobs, up by 1.0 percent from April and up by 3.0 percent from the same time last year.
The unemployment rate was at 6.7, which is up from the revised 6.5 percent in April. The Benton County rate was 6.6 percent and the Franklin County rate was 7.2 percent.The major driver of the rate increase was growth in the labor force 1.9 percent, or 2,400 workers. Monthly nonfarm job gains were recorded in many industries, including construction, transportation and utilities, educational and health services, leisure and hospitality, and state and local government.
Labor force, employment and unemployment
Benton and Franklin counties’ unemployment rate of 6.7 percent was a marked decrease of 0.9 percent from the May 2014 rate of 7.6 percent.
At the same time, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the U.S. edged up to 5.5 percent from 5.4. Washington state’s seasonally adjusted rate dropped by 0.1 percentage points to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent over the month.
The civilian labor force increased by approximately 2,410 people in May and by 3,000 people since May of last year. Out of all individuals who entered the labor force, only 1,950 found employment over the month and 3,870 people found employment over the year. The two-county area had 460 more unemployed workers looking for work over the month, while the over-the-year number of unemployed workforce decreased by 870. The total labor force was 129,500 people in May, and an estimated 8,740 were unemployed.
Over the month, Benton and Franklin counties experienced more stable seasonal hiring, pushing total nonfarm employment to over 107,200 jobs in May. Tri-Cities businesses added an estimated 1,100 nonfarm jobs in May, according to preliminary nonfarm estimates. Growth is in par with previous years.
The private sector added a total of approximately 700 jobs, rather evenly matched between goods producing and service providing industries, 400 and 300 jobs respectively. Government added an estimated total of 400 jobs over the month.
Increased demand for secondary and post-secondary educational services contributed to growth in state and local governments. Many local school districts are expanding due to rapid population growth in both counties.
Industries like construction, and leisure and hospitality added their share of seasonal employment, 400 and 200 respectively. Industries recording declines over the month are retail trade, and professional and business services – 100 jobs each.
Over the year, total nonfarm employment added an estimated 3,100 nonfarm jobs, posting a 3.0 percent growth rate. Total private nonfarm employment added 2,400 new jobs.
Also over the year, Hanford-related industries have added 800 jobs, private educational and health services expanded by 500 jobs, and state and local government government accounted for only 700 new jobs in the area.
Financial activities continued to grow by adding 300 new jobs over the year, and leisure and hospitality added 100 jobs. Retail trade (-600) was the only industry losing jobs over the year.
Goods-producing industries gained an estimated 1,000 jobs over the year, which is a difference of construction job gain of 500 and manufacturing job gains of 500 in the period of one year.