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Jon Talton

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

November 22, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Maritime, jobs, Eastside outlook and more

I was on the road (in the air, actually) for part of the week, so I need to play some catch up:

• My colleague Coral Garnick reported on the Pacific Marine Expo, including a new report showing that the maritime sectors have a $30 billion economic impact on Washington state. Like aerospace, software and biotech/biomedicine, this is a critical cluster.

Among its components: Passenger water transportation; boat and ship building, repair, and maintenance; maritime logistics and shipping; fishing and seafood products; and maritime support services. It is also a source of well-paying, blue-collar jobs.

It faces formidable risks. Climate change and overfishing threaten the ocean and its bounty. Members of Congress keep trying to weaken the Jones Act, which ensures some ship-building is done in America.

Closer to home, policymakers are not acting to ensure that infrastructure is maintained and built to ensure the viability of these sectors. Toxic competition between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma is not growing overall market share. Let’s not that this cluster for granted.

• Unemployment in metro Seattle and Washington ticked up last month. These reports always contain what economists call “noise,” so one month’s numbers should be approached with caution. Still, as my colleague Amy Martinez wrote, “October’s spike in joblessness, which continues a trend begun in August, suggests hiring has cooled considerably from spring and early summer.”

It is particularly ominous that aerospace employment fell by 1,000. The state’s construction sector shed 2,800 jobs. According to the Associated General Contractors, Washington’s loss was the fifth worst, in numbers, among the states.

Over the past year, construction positions have increased by 0.8 percent, putting Washington at 35th nationally. Oregon saw a 6.4 percent increase, Idaho 4.2 percent and Alaska 1.7 percent.

“It’s not a case for panic,” said state labor economist Paul Turek. No. But watchfulness, definitely.

The Bellevue Chamber released its annual survey of Eastside business leaders and Economic Forecast Strategy Guide. Some 88 percent of those surveyed said the Puget Sound economy would expand in 2014; 49 percent said they expected to expand payrolls next year.

• Back to maritime (and air), Port of Seattle commissioners approved its 2014 budget.  Total operating revenues are forecast to be $538.1 million. With expenses of $323.4 million, net operating income before depreciation is forecast to be $214.7 million.

Revenue declines are expected next year, primarily from lower grain terminal shipments, container terminal lease rates required to keep business from moving to Tacoma, and less from conference center fees. Revenue is expected to grow from the airport and marinas.

The total capital budget is $295 million, going to such projects as dock upgrades, channel and berth deepening and a major upgrade to the baggage system at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. SeaTac growth is projected at 3 percent, to 35 million passengers, above the trendline of 2.2 percent.

Tom Albro, commission president, said in a prepared statement, “We are already working with businesses large and small to sustain 200,000 jobs – and we aim to grow from there.”

That’s enough for now. What else did I miss this week?
Today’s Econ Haiku:

Those damned Machinists

I flew two thousand miles safe

Due to their damned work


Comments | More in Ports of Seattle and Tacoma | Topics: Bellevue Chamber, Eastside economy, Maritime


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