November’s unemployment rate in King County was 4.4 percent — that’s what economists generally consider full employment. Pan out to the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro statistical area and the rate was 5.1 percent. It was still the 18th best in the nation but by comparison metro Denver and Austin were 3.9 percent and Minneapolis 3 percent.
The feds don’t quickly count the rate for the metropolitan division of Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, so our numbers were dragged down by Pierce County’s 7.3 percent unemployment rate. Yet in a conversation with a source last night, he was positively downbeat about the ability of Seattle’s boom to create jobs in a sustained way. “I don’t see any real job formation. In fact it will be a pretty deep bust due to size of balloon.” Easy to dismiss, except he has spent 30 years professionally watching the Puget Sound economy.
So where are the jobs? To get a sense, I left out Tacoma to address on another day. These charts are for the metro division.
1. The generally well-paid tech jobs have rebounded from the recession and most sectors have turned in decent growth. But it’s not the smokin’ increase one would expect with Amazon’s expansion, so there must be plenty of layoffs, too, to keep the overall net relatively slow-growing in some sectors:
2. Some of the biggest growth has come in the broad education and health services, most not drawing high wages. The same is true for retail, which has also surpassed its pre-recession level. Hotel and restaurant employment…meh.
3. Still important aerospace grew smartly early in the recovery but it now tapering off. I pull out the timeline to give some context about the booms and busts:
4. With all those cranes, one might expect construction to be driving job growth. The jobs are gradually rising but remain well below pre-crash levels:
5. Here we have two trends that illuminate the recovery. Administrative and support staff were brutally slashed during the recession and are slowly coming back. But many of these middle-wage positions are being automated or outsourced; they may never reach their pre-crash levels. The blue line shows Seattle’s decline as a financial center with the Washington Mutual debacle:
6. Then a snapshot into the region’s logistics sector. Here growth accelerated last year but leveled off. It is still below pre-recession levels:
So is my source right? Based on these admittedly broad-brush glimpses, there is job formation almost all over. Whether it’s being driven by forces that promise relatively stable growth for awhile is another question. Tell me what you think in the comments section.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Shining reserve currency
Exporters get cut