Warmer Weather Heats up Tri-Cities Job Market

Warmer days are translating into more jobs in the Tri-Cities.

State figures show dramatic gains in construction employment, education, retail and hospitality helped drive the local unemployment down to 6.5 percent in March, traditionally the start of the busy warm-weather economy in the Mid-Columbia.

The local labor market had about 138,000 workers in March, an increase of 2.5 percent from 2017. About 129,000 had jobs and about 9,000 were looking for work, according to the Washington Employment Security Department.

Construction remains the shining star of the local economy, with an annual gain of about 1,100 jobs, or more than 14 percent over the past year.

Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist, said the sector added more than 500 jobs in a single month, signaling the start of an extremely busy construction season.

Through March, Tri-City building departments had approved more than $100 million in new residential construction and $80.2 million in new commercial and other construction, gains of 23 percent and 27 percent, according to figures compiled by the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities.

“Construction is an outlier right now that keeps expanding,” Suljic said.

The retail and trade sectors have added 800 posts during the year, while leisure and hospitality is a significant driver.

Government employment also is a growth area, thanks to increasing enrollment in schools.

Suljic forecasts a strong job market heading into summer, typically the busiest time of year for the Mid-Columbia.

“Really good months expected in April, May and June, especially knowing we have a lot of agricultural activity coming on board,” she said.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell