2013 Washington Economic Recap

Washington’s economy continued to recover jobs lost to the Great Recession during 2013, but as of November was still almost 35,000 jobs short of pre-recession levels. Meanwhile, since the end of 2007, state population increased by over 8%. Overall, Washington’s rate of recovery has tracked closely with the tepid national rate, and Washington’s November 2013 unemployment rate of 6.8% was just under the 7% U.S. rate. That rate reflects over 235,000 Washington residents were were actively looking for work.

King County, which is home to about 40% of the state’s jobs, accounted for 62% of job growth statewide in 2013. Since 2010, 59% of statewide job growth has been in King County.

Separating average monthly earnings by gender as well as sector shows large disparities. On average, Washington women only take home 61% of men’s monthly wages. (The commonly cited figure of 77% is based on earnings of full-time, year-round employees only, excluding many hourly service jobs as well as people who “voluntarily” work part time for family-care or other reasons.)

A closer look at job loss and growth in specific sectors illuminates the bubble/bust nature of the economy since 2000, along with some areas of steady growth. After modest losses resulting from the 2001 recession, construction boomed with 50,000 additional jobs, only to lose 70,000 – over 1/3 of the sector’s employment – with the collapse of the housing bubble in 2008. Manufacturing had 360,000 jobs in the state in 1998, fell to 264,000 in 2004, then regained 30,000 only to lose 35,000 by 2010, before starting to slowly climb. Both retail and restaurant jobs have followed the general contours of economic ups and downs. Meanwhile, health care jobs have grown with barely a hiccup due to the two recessions.

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