Where the Jobs Are (and Aren’t), September 2009

Here’s a quarterly check on the jobs situation around Seattle, courtesy of data from the Washington State Employment Security Department. The style of these charts are stolen from the excellent San Diego housing reporter Rich Toscano.

First up, here’s a two-year chart (stolen from my subscription journal Sound Housing Quarterly) of the year-over-year change in some of the broad job categories related to housing:

Seattle-Area YOY Job Gains / Losses

As of September, construction was still bleeding jobs at a rate of nearly 20% per year, though the rate of change has at least leveled off since March. Finance and real estate jobs have shown a similar pattern, leveling off at around 7-8% year-over-year drops. No particular signs of improvement in the year-over-year numbers just yet though.

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

The same three sectors that were hurting in our June update are still suffering as of September: manufacturing, construction, and professional / business services. Between the three, a total of 50,600 jobs have been lost in the last year. Health care was the only major sector that added jobs in the period.

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

Construction sticks out like a sore thumb in this view, with finance / real estate joining the general range of losses seen in manufacturing and professional / business services.

Lastly, here’s a big pie chart showing all major industries that make up Seattle’s job market, to give you some additional perspective to the above data:

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
    NoMoreWork says:

    Fantastic!! …In regards to the post, the part about so many people losing their jobs is actually horrific.

  2. 2
    SupposedToBeAnArchitect says:

    I definitely fall in the construction numbers. Architecture is in the tank right now, hard. I’ve been out of work since May. I was in the third round of layoffs (they started in ’08) and they just had another big round, that firm is down around 45% or 100 workers, those left had a big pay cut. Everyone I know is either unemployed or on reduced hours/ salary. Luckily my S.O. has a good job, we rent, have no debt and decent savings. A friend and I are looking into opening a tavern because architecture isn’t coming back anytime soon and it won’t be to the previous numbers even when it does. It’s a little dizzying to have your profession ripped out from underneath you after 20 years of education and work.

  3. 3
  4. 4

    I Especially Like Your Pie Chart Tim

    You’d think with all the hype and sweating blood we’ve had over raising more taxes, debt, etc to keep teachers, nurses and others like them afloat, they’d be 90% of the jobs, instead of about 10%…..LOL

    And of course wage deterioration of the other 90% of the jobs doesn’t impact that elite 10%?

  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 4 – Public school teachers (and public university staff) are counted as part of the 14% “Government” slice. Breaking it down a bit more, the data shows 234,000 jobs out of 2,830,000 total in State and Local “Government Education Services,” or about 8.3% of all Seattle-area jobs. I’d think K-12 education is all part of “Local Government Education Services,” which makes up 5.5% of area jobs.

    Oops, I just realized the above numbers are for the statewide data. Here in Seattle, State and Local “Government Education Services” make up 91,900 out of 1,395,200 jobs, or 6.6%. “Local Government Education Services” is 3.7% of the total.

  6. 6
    Dave says:

    Sorry to bug you again Tim – what section was Biotech in?

  7. 7
    PhinneyDawg says:

    The “government” category is a bit misleading, as I know firsthand that MANY of the research scientists working at UW for example are paid through grants from private companies (medical devices, pharmaceuticals, etc).

    I’m not surprised to see the medical sector experiencing job growth at all though. Our population is aging quickly and the baby-boomers are just now seeing the results of bad personal health over their lifetimes.

  8. 8
    The Tim says:

    RE: Dave @ 6 – It’s not really obvious from the Washington State Employment Security Department spreadsheet, but from what I can tell after some internet research, to me like Biotech may be split into two categories.

    Any kind of drug manufacturing would be a subset of Manufacturing -> Non-Durable Goods Mfg, which is only broken down in the Washington State Employment Security Department spreadsheet into Food Mfg. There are 15,300 jobs (1.1% of the total) in “Non-Durable Goods Mfg” that are not “Food Mfg.”

    Research functions appear to be a subset of “Information.” Information is currently only broken down into Software and Telecommunications, which leave 15,700 jobs (1.1%) unaccounted for.

  9. 9
    posthoc says:

    RE: The Tim @ 8 – 15,700 jobs? To me that sounds roughly the size of the “unclassified” (meaning for this survey non-mfg and non-IT) sector in biotech/pharma, which encompasses bench research, analytics, and anything else in this category.

  10. 10
    grumble says:

    Government may lose some more jobs, after they lost over $100MM on their investments:


  11. 11
    wreckingbull says:

    I’d love to hear some discussion about those of you that have thrown your volatile profession out the window and rebooted your life with something that is more reliable.

    My profession certainly qualifies as volatile when I look at these figures.

    For example:

    Anyone put away their IDE to become a nurse or a PT?

    I have family members involved in the sewage treatment business and like usual, they are sleeping well through this mess. I may even say I am envious.

  12. 12
    Leigh says:

    By softwarengineer @ 4:

    I Especially Like Your Pie Chart Tim

    And of course wage deterioration of the other 90% of the jobs doesn’t impact that elite 10%?

    OMG, never considered myself elite as I am emptying drains full of urine, sh!t, bile, gastric juices. Oh, and when I get that schizoeffective patient who doesn’t think he needs his meds any more… yeah, elite. Oh, and my raises, a whopping 3%/year if I’m lucky, 2% this year and got my health insurance premium increased to about wipe out my raise.

  13. 13
    Leigh says:

    I work with a few ex-engineers. From my experience these guys tend to work in ICU’s like cardiac care and do quite well. They are smart and learn quickly, the 12 hr shifts 3/week are a big plus. I don’t think they have any regrets. And given their previous degree, potential RN’s like these guys often qualify and do well in accelerated programs.

    I have met a few phlebotomists that were ex-truck drivers. These folks, you could tell, are totally out of their element.

    In Oregon I notice that a lot of folks like the truck drivers are pushed toward the health field. Since the RN program can be a bit overwhelming many end up in Medical Assisting programs. I’m not sure if all of the tuition is covered by unemployment programs but many of these programs are through private schools with a 9-12 month program costing 10-20K and if you land a job the rates are about $12/hr. Good luck paying off those loans.

  14. 14
    Dave says:

    Even with Dendreon hiring Biotech is still getting hammered. AmGen Bothell is closed down and if I were a betting person I would expect AmGen to be completely out of Seattle in 2-3 years. Lot’s of new work at the Hutch and UW due to stimulas money – too bad it pays so low you can’t actually live is Seattle, own a house, and work there for the majority of people.

  15. 15

    RE: Leigh @ 13

    I Can Appreciate Your Job Leigh

    I work on a contract nursing company’s board doing their statististical analysis [without pay BTW].

    My point is, we’re all on the Titanic together, no free ride to the life boats.

    There’s been an 85% increase in general college educated unemployment in 2009 [nurses too, why not?] and no continued stimulus spending to any of the pie catagories of jobs can continue with our current horrifying dwindling tax base, which is decreasing almost as fast as 1929 right now. We’re all heading for the ice berg in the same ship.

    I do appreciate the jobs nurses and teachers do; please appreciate the fact that engineers are our country’s only hope of building an industrial base, hence a tax base for nurses.

  16. 16
    John says:

    Leigh, I keep hearing about the shortage of nurses. Shouldn’t you guys be doing quite well?

  17. 17
    Leigh says:

    By John @ 16:

    Leigh, I keep hearing about the shortage of nurses. Shouldn’t you guys be doing quite well?

    If you have a job you are doing well. We are having hiring freezes in the Portland area. I saw about 20 jobs total between all of the hospitals and 15 were for management. Other parts of the country are short and I know of a few new grads who hate to move but have to to get work.

  18. 18
    Leigh says:

    By softwarengineer @ 15:

    RE: Leigh @ 13

    I do appreciate the jobs nurses and teachers do; please appreciate the fact that engineers are our country’s only hope of building an industrial base, hence a tax base for nurses.

    But we have NO QUALIFIED ENGINEERS in the USA, well, we hear that a lot anyway. What’s your take on that common complaint.

    And yes, I do appreciate engineers. I’m married to an ex-ee now seeking a health care career. We have friends still trying to survive in hi-tech.

  19. 19
    Cheap South says:

    RE: Leigh @ 18

    I am too giving up in engineering. Those jobs are mostly gone to Asia forever (or until we are willing to work for a handful of rice a day).

  20. 20
    Pacnorwester says:

    Civil Engineering is still doing ok as long as you weren’t doing private development work before real estate tanked. The stimulus money has helped out allot. Civil has always been the junk yard dog of the engineering world, but it’s harder to offshore than some other disciplines, since most of the design is custom, and you actually have to go see the areas and things your designing for.

    There have still been layoffs, but a lot of the layoffs were opportunistic; a way for firms to get rid of marginal folks as the workflow declined. We’ll see how long that lasts.

    No matter what field you’re in, if you’re well paid now, you should be very sober about it. Because if you do lose your job, the chances of finding a job that pays the same or more in this environment is next to nil, regardless of how good you think you are.

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