We shouldn’t be too complacent about the rise in Seattle unemployment to 5.2 percent in August from 4.8 percent the month before. True, one month does not a trend make and there’s always “noise” in data. But, as the Seattle Times’ Amy Martinez reported, the metro area’s joblessness hasn’t risen four-tenths of a percentage point in a single month since the worst of the recession. Also, a big part of the 4,300 jobs lost last month came in well-paying manufacturing positions, specifically in aerospace. Boeing has warned that it is trimming payrolls here. We can expect to feel that effect in the months ahead.
Seattle has been one of the few encouraging spots outside the Oil Patch in this dismal labor market. At a 4.8 percent rate, we had reached what economists would consider full employment. Now, at least with the latest numbers, there’s cause for concern and it goes beyond the aerospace sector. The 1,500 positions cut in leisure and hospitality at the height of the tourist season also raise a question mark. Wider headwinds also continue from the federal sequester and now, apparently, another hostage situation over the debt ceiling. Aside from the statistical anomaly of teachers returning to work, government cutbacks at all levels have held back recovery. And, as Martinez pointed out, job creation has not improved enough to accommodate the growth in the labor market. Finally, the housing engine is not coming back with the strength it had in the 2000s.
This is not to say Seattle is looking at a double-dip — unless the House of Representatives forces a default on federal debt, and then all bets are off. But at the least, the August report is a reminder that we’re not a nation-state, that even with a diversified and strong local economy we’re still facing the general unemployment crisis that dogs America, years into this so-called recovery.
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Today’s Econ Haiku:
Full faith and credit
Doesn’t seem to mean that much
To a House of Cards