Follow us:

Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

May 22, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Seattle area reaches ‘full employment’ milestone

Nearly four years after the end of the recession, King County unemployment hit 4.4 percent in April. That’s a level economists would traditionally consider full employment. That’s down from an average of 8.6 percent in 2009. It doesn’t mean there’s no suffering here due to job losses, but it’s an important milestone nonetheless, especially when nationally 11 million are officially unemployed and the unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in April. It’s an outlier in Washington, too: Pierce County’s jobless rate was 8.1 percent; Gray’s Harbor, 12.1 percent; Snohomish County did better at 4.9 percent.

The reasons are many: The Seattle area’s diverse economy; the Amazon.com boom; a construction boom; infrastructure work, especially on the Alaskan Way tunnel and light-rail; continued strength in the IT and software sectors; trade, and Boeing (whose cutbacks haven’t yet been felt, and many of whose Everett workers live in King County). We were less slammed by residential overbuilding. Another plus, aside from the Washington Mutual calamity, Seattle went into the recession strong, with companies enjoying strong balance sheets and potent assets such as our world-class clusters. Metros that entered the downturn weak, or dependent on housing, did the worst in the aftermath.

In the big divergence of recovery, Seattle is definitely on the winning side. Oklahoma City, a big energy center, turned in 4.6 percent in April. On the other side, April unemployment was 9.9 percent in Los Angeles; 9.6 percent in Miami; 9.4 percent in Chicago; 9.5 percent in Detroit; 8.4 percent in New York City, and 9.8 percent in Las Vegas. We shouldn’t assume our good fortune is the norm.

In a separate report, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employment increased 2.4 percent in King County from September 2011 to September 2012, compared with the national rate of 1.6 percent. King County’s average weekly wage rose 2.3 percent vs. a 1.1 percent average decrease nationally. King County turned in an average weekly wage of $1,354, the highest in the state. Okanogan County in north-central Washington, with an average weekly wage of $482, was lowest in the state.

And Don’t Miss: 501(c)4s, 527 groups and the IRS dilemma | A Taxing Matter

Today’s Econ Haiku:

QE could slow down

Bernanke won’t tip his hand

It will trip the bulls

Comments | More in Jobs/Unemployment

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►