Where the Jobs Are (or Mostly, Where They Aren’t)

Rich Toscano posted a great breakdown of the job situation down in San Diego yesterday that I thought was an interesting way to look at the data, so I’m shamelessly and blatantly copying it.

The following chart shows the volume of job gains or losses in the last 12 months in some of the largest Seattle-area industries:

Seattle-Area Job Gains / Losses

Manufacturing, construction, and professional / business services were by far the hardest hit in sheer volume, losing a total of 42,700 jobs between the three sectors.

Here’s a look at the same data, broken down by the year-over-year percentage change, to give a better picture of the relative health of various industries:

Seattle-Area Job Gains / Losses

Relative to its size, construction has shed twice as many jobs as any other sector, while finance / real estate, manufacturing, and professional / business services all also lost over 5%. Apparently if you’re looking for a job in health services, you have a much better chance than most any other industry in the last year.

Finally, here’s a big pie chart showing all major industries that make up Seattle’s job market, to give you an idea which sectors have the largest effect on the total employment picture:

Seattle-Area Job Gains / Losses

Source: Washington State Employment Security Department

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Ajax says:

    More government…big surprise.

  2. 2


    Our state’s Senator Murray is horrified, quotes idling of engineering and mechanic personnel from active workforce.

    Roubini on jobs per CNBC interview today:

    “….On a second stimulus: “I think there will be another one toward the end of the year. We need to have more shovel ready labor intensive infrastructure projects. We’ll need it.”

    On investing in today’s markets: “A “Stay away from risky assets. I think from now on the surprise will be on the downside in areas like commodities.”…”

    Roubini is telling us stay away from deflationary commodities today, like oil and gold…..while clearly directs us to “Cash is King”. Got to hand it to him, he changes his mind [on oil] and that’s a great economist in my book.

    The rest of the URL:


  3. 3

    RE: Ajax @ 1


    I think there was a Census Bureau shift to federal jobs, but all of them were let go recently. County governments are laying off too.

    Private sector jobs make up 86% of the market, so 1/2% increase in government isn’t much.

  4. 4
    The Tim says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 3 – No, the dark green is “Leisure / Hospitality.” Gov. jobs (the light green) were up 1,000 / 0.5% YOY.

  5. 5

    I keep reading about various governmental entities laying people off, ranging from King County to the State of Washington to the UW to various school districts, so I’m curious how and where the increase in jobs came from. New jail employees or cops, or people associated with foreclosures?

  6. 6
    deejayoh says:

    Why is the text size so tiny in the comments today? All the previous threads still appear normal.

  7. 7
    98115Renter says:

    RE: Ajax @ 1

    All this proves is that contrary to conservative propoganda, the government isn’t increasing in size at breakneck speed.

    Also remember that those jobs are still jobs and represent employment and income for local residents. Those government employees are part of the economy too, not some black hole.

  8. 8
    Vailripper says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 5

    Census build up, would be my guess.

  9. 9
    The Tim says:

    RE: deejayoh @ 6 – We apologise for the fault in the font size. Those responsible have been sacked.

  10. 10

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 5

    I did hear the prisons do have a shortage of guards, hey, if you’re a kid with a highschool degree, its a good way to make $20/hr and get your college paid for…

    Beats joining the army….LOL

  11. 11
    PhinneyDawg says:

    Census build up was very big and is still ongoing. They recently did a canvassing of every address in the United States to geocode them. Nearly all of those workers were temporary. From personal knowledge, even the management positions and staff positions at the Census are temporary, most of which will disappear in 2010/2011.

    Also take into account that growing populations require more government employees to maintain the current system. A 0.5% increase YOY is not out of the question, seeing as population growth in the United States right now is approximately 0.6 – 0.8%. Seems right in line.

  12. 12
    seattlerenter says:

    Great, good thing I’m an accounting major. Oh lordy tell me there will be jobs in 2 years.

  13. 13
    Dave says:

    Hey – what would “biotech/research/pharma” be under. Rosetta closes this year (locks doors Dec. 31st) and Zymo has been laying off.

  14. 14
    deejayoh says:

    RE: The Tim @ 9 – It’s alright. I thought it was my eyes.

  15. 15

    RE: PhinneyDawg @ 11


    For your alleged growing population estimate and as if this isn’t horrifying enough…how do we fund this adequate sized “right in line” [as you called it] growing government with Tim’s horrifying tax base losses?

    I know, Obama has a magic jobs creation wand [that Roubini said won’t kick in for years]…LOL

    How do we spell “Second Stimulus” still needed? Now, how do we spell how do we pay for it?

  16. 16
    The Tim says:

    RE: Dave @ 13 – There’s a subsection under “Professional and Business Services” titled “Professional, Scientific and Technical Services” which employed 103,200 people in the Seattle MSA in June. I’d guess biotech falls under that category.

  17. 17
    The Danza says:

    RE: Dave @ 13 – Bio Tech is a mixed bag recently, but Dendreon has been on a hiring binge with no end in sight.

  18. 18
    Dave says:

    RE: The Danza @ 17 – For my own info – what kind of scale is the hiring binge at Dendreon?

  19. 19
    The Danza says:

    RE: Dave @ 18 – Currently they are looking at about 80-100 new positions or about 50% of there current work force. Overall the biotech market (at least cancer research) in Seattle has gotten a bit of a boost in the arm as of late.

  20. 20
    PhinneyDawg says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 15 – So much use of the Caps Lock button!

    Take into account some ‘government’ jobs aren’t exactly what they sound like. For example, I work as a research scientist at a university. My work is often funded by private entities (with the university only paying for my medical/dental) AND my groups work OFTEN is turned into patents that are bought by private corporations (which actually makes money for the university). Those private corporations in turn use the patents to sell more of the their product and create more jobs in the private sector.

    In essence, ‘government’ jobs aren’t as black and white as they’d seem. Take into account also that ‘government’ employees are taxed just as heavily as a “private” employee, and spend their money in the economy at the same rate as anyone else.

  21. 21

    RE: The Danza @ 17


    Too bad we didn’t buy all their stock a year ago, we’d of made 600% profit, albeit its flat-lining lately, even going down a bit.

    But with any type of drug intervention company be careful, they go on a surge with profits galore, then one product liability lawsuit and the whole house of cards collapses….I work as a board member for a medical contracting firm on the side and the medical professionals say the drugs do great until there’s a lawsuit, then its back to square one bankruptcy again,….

    If the company can keep growing like it has this year or two; granny bar the door; if I ever got prostate problems, I’d ask them for their meds too….LOL

  22. 22

    RE: PhinneyDawg @ 20


    Some of the best scientists we ever had in America were in the 60s and 70s and they worked for NASA, a government agency. Not a waste of money at all….a wonderful investment. We haven’t seen that type of inventiveness in America since, IMO.

    Too bad there aren’t a lot more govenment workers like you, but most R & D funding transferred to the military, as the private sector almost entirely pulled out of R & D to outsource old technology.

    I’m thinking we probably need the military to start inventing for the private sector again; but don’t let the private sector give all the patents away to employ other countries with our tax bucks….maybe a federally invented mode of transportation that eliminates the need for internal combustion engines and oil [made with federally controlled manufacturing plants in America]….LOL, that would really make the globalists mad as hornets and Americans rich again….

  23. 23
    Dave says:

    RE: The Danza @ 19 -Yeah – I thouhgt so. A small shot in the arm is better than nothing. Rosetta had around 400 and Zymo got rid of 50 or so I think.

    Seattle – still not a Biotech hub.

  24. 24
    biliruben says:

    RE: Dave @ 23

    You don’t think we are in the top 5?

    SF, Boston, maybe NYC…

    Where else?

  25. 25
    Dave says:

    RE: biliruben @ 24

    Depends on what we mean by “biotech”. I include in that all major pharmaceutical industry research and manufacturing. Seattle has several small (less than 20 people) shops. These do not an industry make. The big places (Rosetta, Zymo, about 8 or 9 others that are also gone) started to put us in the league or a hub didn’t work out. I used to work at Rosetta and I told a few peole from there while on a boat in the Sound (tour by the company) that Seattle is the last palce you would set up – esepecially with SF and SD being on the west coast too. The only thing we are on the way to is Alaska. They looked at me like I was an idiot – and they are looking for work now – guess I won that argument.

    Me – I bailed – writing was on the wall when I was there and I wasn’t sticking around for the finale.

    So..,. to add to your list…. San Diego, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, most of the eastern seaboard, etc., etc.

  26. 26
    anony says:

    That is really bad. All the jobs that produce anything are the hardest hit. The industries on the left side of the chart basically rely on people in the industries on the right making and spending money. Will layoffs start en mass for them once they really start feeling the effects of less workers and professionals spending money (excluding government of course)?

  27. 27
    The Danza says:

    RE: Dave @ 25 – I agree that Seattle is not a biotech hub, but I don’t think we are that far off. There are a ton of small shops around but no industry heavy weights as of right now. If…big if, one of these mid size bio’s (Dendreon, CTI, Seattle Genetics…) can continue to grow it will attract more money to the area. There has been a huge void since Immunex was bought out. Time will tell but i see a glimmer of hope.

  28. 28
    Dave says:

    RE: The Danza @ 27
    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not cheerleading for failure – but I’m trying to be realistic. All the major employers from the early part of the decade are gone. Not downsized – gone. Realistically if a smaller shop is bought for a patent the company is going to shut down the seattle locatio – why keep it running? That’s happened many times so far – heck it’s the business strategy.


  29. 29
    The Danza says:

    RE: Dave @ 28 – You are right. Some of the smaller companies can be equated to house flippers. They are do the leg work to get the company/science started and hope to sell out to major Pharma for a profit. With that being said, all it takes is one Company to plant roots like Genentech did in SF to make Seattle into a legimate bio hub. I admit I am a bit biased since my wife works in the field!

  30. 30
    David Losh says:

    RE: biliruben @ 24

    Raleigh North Carolina, Chapel Hill to be exact.

    Seattle had a chance at research dollars for cancer in the 1970s, then again for AIDS in the 1980s, but we have no infrastructure, for lack of a better term. University of Washington was more interested in expanding for profit services than doing research. Money flows to clinical trials that have a diverse set of projects in the works.

  31. 31
    LUC says:

    RE: The Danza @ 19

    The Danza,

    To clarify those jobs are split between between WA, NJ and NC. Another bit of news, Amgen, my old company, just shutdown their clinical manufacturing facility in Bothell last month…100 people lost their jobs.

  32. 32
    deejayoh says:

    By David Losh @ 30:

    RE: biliruben @ 24

    Raleigh North Carolina, Chapel Hill to be exact.

    Seattle had a chance at research dollars for cancer in the 1970s, then again for AIDS in the 1980s, but we have no infrastructure, for lack of a better term. University of Washington was more interested in expanding for profit services than doing research. Money flows to clinical trials that have a diverse set of projects in the works.

    Well, the Hutch is one of the top three recipients of funding in the nation for NCI grants and Washington is in the top ten states. So while I’d agree with the poster’s that suggest we are not much of a biotech hub – we do haul in more than our fair share of funding for cancer research. We had our chance with Immunex, but they sold out. Enbrel was a big hit.

  33. 33
    David Losh says:

    I forgot about Fred Hutchinson. That may be because we don’t hear about them to much lately.

    My impression is that Seattle has lost a lot of opportunity in this area. From what I understand South Lake Union was going to be a draw for biotech. It’s much easier to have a group of independents in one location and the clinics available to do trials.

    With the talk about Health Care Reform the focus will be on treatment. In my opinion the University of Washington may be in a better position for federal funding if we get legislation for Health Care.

  34. 34

    RE: anony @ 26


    We had a Ponzi Scheme debt replacement for an industrial base for a bit, until interest rates reduction capability ended with concurrent wage mitigation; which clearly killed the uncontrolled growth of glueboard housing. Now construction workers are hardest hit.

    It was wishful thinking for teachers and nurses to think America could grow its way into bigger classrooms and more patients. The opposite happenned, as the local tax revenue and wages went down the toilet as the uncontrolled growth Bubble Popped. Teacher and nurse layoffs don’t make MSM, but they’re happenning.

    Even the tech savvy, like a current 9% unemployment rate of experienced electrical engineers [college graduates aren’t counted] makes the get a degree and keep working blah, blah, blah….sound like just more MSM hype to fill unproductive college slots.

    Even the $12B Obama plans to use to rescue community colleges is also ear-marked for online colleges [a fraction of the teachers needed].

    The unemployment conundrum goes on and on…

  35. 35
    Gene says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 34

    What are you basing your comment that a fraction of the teachers are needed for an online college? You’re implying a “small fraction” though maybe you mean a fraction like 1/1. :)

    I’ve taken a few online classes, and know a few professors who teach online courses. For both the students and professors they tend to be as much (and sometimes more more) work than in-person courses. Sure, that’s not going to be true for some professors and at some schools, but course loads are typically limited the same way they are in-person at the “real” schools.

  36. 36

    RE: Gene @ 35


    How many students are online there and how many teachers work for the website?

    Give me the data from the website please [like URLs I can open, if they don’t exist, then its just your verbal allegation with no evidence and you have no proof].

    Provide me the URLs backing up your allegation, then I’ll provide you with easily to obtain classroom data from the U of W; this will totally clarify the issue.

  37. 37
    anony says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 36 – Why don’t you just use data from the UW’s online courses so you can make an apples to apples comparison backing up your “allegation” that a fraction of the teachers are needed.

  38. 38
    Niz Monkey says:

    RE: The Danza @ 29

    You are right about the house flipping analogy. I work at a small biotech (10 people) and the prevailing strategy is to have some type of “platform” for drug discovery in house (very broad and light-years away from market) and a “business development” team that basically finds later stage (phase I or II clinicals) drug candidates from equally small companies to maybe fund through a partnership for a year and then sell-off. Most of our resources are allocated to the business development team. You know, swanky lunches, business class flights twice a week, and stays in hotels. But hey, that’s business LOL. Meanwhile, the small lab has to do backflips and throw fits to get money for anything. Can you tell which side of the street I work on? This industry has fallen victim to the same “do as little as possible and make tons of money off it” attitude that has infiltrated other industries. We are basically a middle-man that adds little to no value to products.

    As to Seattle being a biotech hub? Well, Seattle likes to think we are pretty hot-stuff nationally. So, if the people with the money for development (ie Paul Allen and Vulcan) think that is so, the mayor and council will just fall in line. Hence, Seattle/Seattleites spend all this money on development, both residential and commercial, yet there really is no market for it. I work in South Lake Union. There are cranes everywhere and large buildings going up on every block. My question is: just who are the prospective tenants of these buildings? If they are large biotechs outside of the Pacific Northwest, would they really want to move here? Chicago or St. Louis or anywhere in the midwest makes way more financial sense.

  39. 39


    I found this interesting graph interesting….Tim, go ahead and legally plagerize it on upcoming blog stories.


  40. 40

    RE: anony @ 37


    I’m sure it agrees with your “alleged” teacher to student philosophy, RE: online colleges, but sure doesn’t employ American teachers….LOL


  41. 41
    Niz Monkey says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 39

    The more things like that I read, the more I think of one simple fact of nature: Malthusian population genetics. Maybe there are just too many damn people? Humans are the best species at screwing things up.

  42. 42

    RE: Niz Monkey @ 41


    I call it “doncha know” allegations. “Doncha know” all the problems on earth are our fault…LOL…of course there’s no way on earth we can influence their fertility rates, unless we set a leadership example in America [and lately that leadership is going environmentally backwards].

  43. 43
    David Losh says:

    RE: Niz Monkey @ 38

    This is a very eloquent comment.

    I wonder who the city will attract for all of that high end office space.

  44. 44
    SLU Dweler says:

    RE: Niz Monkey @ 38

    Almost all of the remaining ongoing construction in SLU is in that tract between Terry and Boren. While it’s a Vulcan project, the signs at the construction sites mention Amazon as the tenant. I read an article a while back before the project started saying that 8,000 Amazon employees from various leased offices around the city were going to be moved into a single headquarters campus there.

  45. 45
    Niz Monkey says:

    RE: SLU Dweler @ 44

    Yes, Amazon is one of the prospective tenants, but Microsoft was one of the prospects also. I believe Microsoft pulled out from the “Enso” project a ways back.

  46. 46
    Jonness says:

    By Ira Sacharoff @ 5:

    I keep reading about various governmental entities laying people off, ranging from King County to the State of Washington to the UW to various school districts, so I’m curious how and where the increase in jobs came from. New jail employees or cops, or people associated with foreclosures?

    Washington State Employment Security has been hiring like crazy. The majority of the jobs are low paying claims handling type positions. By contrast, other agencies, such as DSHS, have been axing positions like crazy.

    Since the new budget year has started, we’ll be seeing a bunch more State jobs cut in order to balance the budget. Thurston county real estate will adjust downward accordingly.

  47. 47
    posthoc says:

    RE: Dave @ 25
    RE: Niz Monkey @ 38

    Hi folks–I doubt the Seattle biotech industry is doing nearly as poorly at all that. [Although maybe this is a problem of definition, as alluded to by previous posters… if I work for UW but my money comes from MSFT and my research is both medical and philanthropic–where am I in the standard rubric? biotech fits as well–or as poorly–as anything else.] My field is heavily dependent on new research dollars, and the market is if anything better than 2 years ago during our supposed boom economy. Not every large firm moving into the area has simply shut down operations, and even their supposedly draconian cuts are targeted in a way an objective observer might find reasonable.

  48. 48

    […] months in some of the largest Seattle-area industries:The same three sectors that were hurting in our June update are still suffering as of September: manufacturing, construction, and professional / business […]

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