February Unemployment rises to 10.0% in Spokane County

As we predicted last month, the February unemployment estimate comes in at 10.0%. The February unemployment rate is essentially unchanged from one year ago and has ended its trend of dropping one percent per year from 2010 to 2011 and then down again to 2012. March may come in at 9.5% to 9.7%. Elsewhere. King County’s unemployment level dropped to 5.9% in February.

There is some good news – the estimated number of employed people has increased  – compare February 2013 to February 2012 in the data table.


Total employed remains less than in 1998 and 2000 (chart is from US BLS and is current through January 2013) which means there has been no growth in jobs for 12-13 years.


January 2013 Spokane unemployment level at 9.8%

As we have repeatedly pointed out, Spokane’s cyclical employment market reaches peak unemployment in January or February. Regardless, 9.8% unemployment levels (or higher) for January or February for five years in a row is a bad economic situation. February will likely come in around 10%.


If the current rate of decrease in the unemployment rate holds steady, Spokane’s unemployment level will not return to the 5+% range until 2016 to 2017 – or about five more years of high unemployment here.

This type of chart is called a “spaghetti chart” for the resemblance to a plate of spaghetti, where the strands of spaghetti become intertwined and hard to follow. Look in detail at an exploded view of the lines at lower right of the chart (see below). Spokane’s unemployment rate (blue) can be compared to the state (green) and national (red) changes. As you can see, Spokane’s cyclical change is about 2x to 3x greater than the State.

Spokane’s unemployment rate increase of 1.4 percentage points  is greater than the 0.8 point increase in 2012, greater than the 1.3 percentage point increase in 2011, and one point less than the percentage point increase in 2010. These values are about twice as large as the annual variation in past years, before The Great Recession.


Total Employment

The State’s ESD reports  total employment has risen by 4,800 over a year ago. The State numbers have been “locally adjusted” from the raw data from the US BLS and from past experience, this value needs to be verified with the BLS data once it becomes available.


Spokane Crime Ranking

Violent crime seems to have increased with weekly reports of shootings, near daily stabbings and armed robberies and assaults.  The sense of increase may be due to an awareness that was previously missing – now we all monitor Facebook.com/spokanenews for continuous updates on major crime reports and are more aware of the crime situation than we were in the past. There may not have been any change in crime – just a change in our awareness of crime.

  • In a just updated ranking of cities, Spokane ranked 348th out of 458 cities (higher numbers mean worse crime). You can see the full list of cities here.
  • Boise, Idaho, which is one of the cities that Spokane bench marks against, is rated #75 (meaning less crime).

Here is a chart comparing Spokane crimes reported to national averages. Crime reports in Spokane run about 50-100% higher than the national average based on the chart below – of interest, the national crime average is trending downwards.


Source:  http://www.city-data.com/city/Spokane-Washington.html

Crime reports went down in 2005-2008 (but not necessarily crime) because the CrimeCheck reporting system was shut down during those years. Because of this, it is not possible to draw an accurate historical trend line of crime in Spokane.

City of Spokane Employment From 1990 through Dec 2012

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics provides historical employment data by city (for cities of 25,000 population or greater).

The following chart shows the total number of employed people from 1990 to the end of 2012 in the City of Spokane.

The City of Spokane has almost exactly the same number of jobs as it did in 1995-1996. There has been no growth in jobs in 17 years. Ouch. In addition, Spokane employment has become more cyclical – note the annual up and down cycle, at right, is greater than that prior to year 2000. (A county chart, after the break, shows no growth in jobs since 1998.)


Update: A comment asks if the flat job growth could be due to a flat population growth in the City of Spokane? Good question.

From the peak employment years near 2000 to the end of 2012, the City’s population increased by 7% while the number of jobs decreased by 9%. To answer the question, no, the flat job growth is not due to a flat population growth.

The following chart shows City of Spokane population from 1890 to 2010 (the horizontal axis is different than the 1990-2012 chart above) (Data).


All city employment charts were generated by the BLS web site tools.

Obviously, this is not a good trend, and is the 2nd worst job growth trend in the State, after Tacoma, in last place (other city growth trend charts shown after the break, below).

Second, you may remember claims made by the Spokane Public Facilities District (PFD) that expansion of the Convention Center would result in an increase in jobs in Spokane. Unfortunately, no increase in jobs is visible in the employment data.

After the break, charts of other large cities in the State of Washington. Only Tacoma shows a job market worse than Spokane. Notably, most cities in Washington show steady growth in jobs over this period of time, unlike Spokane.

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