Where the Jobs Are (and Aren’t), February 2010

Since February employment numbers were just recently released here in Washington State, let’s check in again on the jobs situation around Seattle, courtesy of data from the Washington State Employment Security Department. The style of most of these charts are stolen from the excellent San Diego housing reporter Rich Toscano.

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

Seattle-Area YOY Job Gains / Losses

As of February, construction is still by far the hardest hit industry around Seattle, but the bleeding has lessened from 25% year-over-year losses to “just” a 20% loss as of February. Jobs are still being lost overall, but Retail has almost leveled off to zero.

And don’t ask me what’s the deal with the weird spikes in Manufacturing in October ’08 and ’09. It’s in the data from the state, and I have no idea what caused it.

Here’s a look at the overall Seattle area unemployment rate compared to the national rate:

Seattle-Area Unemployment Rate

Next up, here’s a chart that shows the raw number 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 are still shedding more jobs than any other industry in the Seattle area. Between the three, a total of 40,500 jobs have been lost in the last year. Health care was once again 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 still sticks out like a sore thumb in this view, with the losses in other industries all falling in the single digits.

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
    Mark says:

    Isn’t the manufacturing “down” spike in October 2008 the Boeing strike? Not sure what the up spike is though.

  2. 2

    What’s Very Massive, Important and Missing from the Charts

    Is ghost unemployment, as to the bean counters perhaps it no longer matters, or never did matter….

  3. 3
    Daniel says:

    By Mark @ 1:

    Isn’t the manufacturing “down” spike in October 2008 the Boeing strike? Not sure what the up spike is though.

    *cough* Think about it another second. Hint: its the yoy change.

  4. 4
    Scotsman says:

    “We do not expect further declines in unemployment this year,” the officials said in testimony prepared for the House Appropriations Committee.”


  5. 5
    pfft says:

    less bad is good.

  6. 6
    pfft says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 2it’s obviously all a conspiaracy! I wish I was a tea party type so I could blame everything that goes wrong in my life on someone else and/or the government.

  7. 7
    David Losh says:

    When you look at the pie chart you can see the seattle area is pretty well rounded in types of employment.

    The construction decline is misrepresented, in my opinion, due to the amount of transient labor.

    There will be plenty for local labor contractors to do. My thought is that some one will have to fix most of the carp that was built in the past 12 years.

  8. 8
    OldGuy says:

    Here’s an exercise for you, “The Tim.” What are the real wage increases across the different occupations / companies in the Seattle area? Even from historical data during the housing bubble years. Before the real estate promoters start telling people to buy as much house as they can afford now because their sure to get X% in yearly raises and/or promotions. Maybe they can convince the majority of prospective home buyers they’re smart and in the upper 5-10% of the work force.

  9. 9
    corncob says:

    RE: David Losh @ 7 – The fact it is well rounded makes me question who exactly can afford all of these homes. I look at that pie chart and it seems like maybe 20% of jobs are in sectors paying high enough to afford a median house. Maybe everyone is dual income and house poor, sounds worse than renting to me.

  10. 10
    David Losh says:

    RE: corncob @ 9RE: OldGuy @ 8

    Both excellent points about incomes. We have been working with a wide variety of people who are selling homes. Some have excellent jobs, and are moving up.

    Most have had job cuts, or own homes that are beyond their capacity. They may even have good equity, but paying the mortgage is going to eat up any return they expected to get, in the time frame they expected.

    We are in for some more declines as people chose to sell, or they decide to give the property back to the bank.

    In another aside, I think watching bankruptcy filings will be more to the point than Notices of Default. In my opinion if you short sell, or default, intentionally, or through no fault of your own, you should declare bankruptcy at any hint the bank may pursue you.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that a deficiency is an uncollected debt, or will remain a debt for a long period of time. I would think it’s better to get that debt, and any other debts you may have discharged, unless you intend to just pay it.

    Any thoughts about that?

  11. 11
    Civil Servant says:

    Here’s state data on median household income by county. The 2009 estimates are new-ish. Without adjusting for inflation, the King County 2009 numbers are between their 2004 and 2005 levels.


  12. 12
    shawn says:

    RE: pfft @ 6 – to clarify, SWE mainly blames his lot in life on immigrants coming to this melting pot we call America, and he has an axe to grind regarding people in Asia who dare to do what he did–have kids.

  13. 13
    shawn says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 2 – SWE isn’t there a street corner somewhere that is missing a guy with a placard, a soap box, and a megaphone?

  14. 14
    matsayswhat says:

    By David Losh @ 7:

    The construction decline is misrepresented, in my opinion, due to the amount of transient labor.

    There will be plenty for local labor contractors to do. My thought is that some one will have to fix most of the carp that was built in the past 12 years.

    Exactly. That and a lot of people/businesses that moved to construction during the boom just like many moved to RE because there was “money to be made” are now realizing that it’s not as easy as it first seemed. Many are moving on or back to something else.

    Hopefully the job losses will normalize the industry though so that on average there are a higher percentage of qualified/skilled craftsmen and workers at better rates. This should benefit consumers a bit from a price standpoint and a LOT from a quality standpoint. It’s kind of like being the captain of the dodge ball team in elementary school and getting first pick :)

  15. 15

    RE: pfft @ 6

    Tea Party Schmee Party

    The leader DeLay is the opposite politics of my SWE attitude to controlled growth.

    I deal mostly in pure honest numbers and science, not mostly politics twisting reality any which way for greed.

  16. 16

    RE: shawn @ 12

    I Totally Agree With China On Depopulation Planning

    Sounds a bit racist on your part to even bring race into the depopulation science discussion, after all, America is the most diverse ethnic country in the world.

    If all else fails against science and common sense; falsely call ’em haters….LOL

  17. 17

    RE: matsayswhat @ 14

    If the Legal American Construction Jobs Aren’t All Replaced With Insourced Slave Labor Masses

    Undocumented labor isn’t counted on the unemployment charts either.


  18. 18

    Tea Party Leader, Dick Armey, Wants Continued Uncontrolled Population Growth in America, Just like the DNC Platform

    Article in part:

    “…”Who in the Republican Party was the genius who said now that we have identified the fastest-growing demographic in America, let’s go out and alienate them? This is a nation of immigrants. … There is room in America,” he said.

    “When I was Republican leader, I saw to it that Tom Tancredo could not get on a stage because I saw how destructive he was,” Armey said of the anti-immigration former congressman. “Republicans have to get off this goofiness. Ronald Reagan said, ‘Tear down this wall.’ Tom Tancredo said ‘Build that wall.’ Who’s right? America is not a nation that builds walls. America is a nation that opens doors, and we should be that.”…”


    Perhaps Shawn may join the Tea Party movement?

  19. 19
    shawn says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 16 – here is what is sad, you do not see it or you pretend to not see it. However, what is equally sad is that it is obvious to everyone who reads your rants. I did not bring race into the depopulaton issue, you did with comments like when you said Southeast Asians “need to take 101 on condoms” I am sure we can find the exact post and have you revisit it. I have not called you racist because again, I am not sure that you don’t see it? I am still thinking you might be so out of touch with reality that you are unaware of what your comments mean.

    Like I said before, there is nothing I can say that can damage you. What has and contiues to damage you are the words you yourself speak. All I do is call you on it.

  20. 20

    RE: shawn @ 19


    Shawn, if overpopulation in Asia is a horrifying problem [it is] and China is using birth control as a government mandate….why is an opinion on birth control in Mexico, Africa, Asia, etc, etc. a racist slur?

    I’m for funding UN sanctioned birth control throughout the world….not just Asia as you alleged. Many scientists and liberals for an environmental future totally agree with me.

    I’m sure corporations funding/lobbying Dem/Rep politicians for more and more overpopulation insourcing in America totally agree with you and hate me.

    BTW, if America doesn’t set an example for true global warming control [depopulation], who will?

  21. 21
    Buford says:

    We can’t depopulate…….someone has to pay the horrendous taxes that are sure to follow.

  22. 22
    shawn says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 20 – Again, the sad thing is you either don’t see it or pretend not to. Here is why your statements reek of racism, you see a problem that whites are equally if not completely responsible for, and you point your finger at non-whites. Think about it.

    You complain about those workers who are not citizens coming here illegally. But you ignore our stealing their land from their ancestors. So, you are complainging about a Mexican daring to come here to some land that we stole from him and you make him a criminal. Think about it.

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