Friday Roundup: Softer economy, stronger manufacturing; Seattle’s start-up advantages; boosting productivity by elevating education, workforce skills

There are always a few items we’ve read during a week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup. Here’s this week’s bundle:

Shopfloor: ISM: Manufacturing Contracted for the 5th Straight Month, but Offered Some Encouraging Signs

This does not mean that manufacturing’s struggles are over, but this report does offer a glimpse of cautious optimism, with the ISM data coming in a bit stronger than anticipated. Even with this finding, manufacturers remain anxious in their economic outlook overall, and other reports continue to highlight softness in the marketplace.

Wall Street Journal : How a Less-Skilled American Workforce May Be Holding Back Growth

Growth in “labor quality,” a measure of the skill set of the average worker, has declined in the last few years, according to the report. In 2015, the growth in overall workforce skills contributed less than 0.1 percentage points to GDP growth, the smallest contribution of labor quality to growth since 1979.

Also, comment in The American Interest: Why is Productivity Growth Slowing? 

GeekWire: Microsoft M&A exec Bob Kelly: Here’s the ‘dirty secret’ about Silicon Valley, and why Seattle startups have an advantage

Silicon Valley startups typically gain early sales momentum because they sell to other startup or mid-tier companies in the Valley.

But in Seattle — which lacks that sort of dynamic startup ecosystem and robust buying and selling environment —startups need to find real customers who fork out cash because the technology solves a real problem.

The Lens: Hey! Go Easy On That Rainy Day Fund, Say Washington State Budget Hawks

Washington state business advocates are warning against proposals by lawmakers to raid the state’s “rainy day fund” or raise any new taxes to plug holes in this year’s supplemental budget. If recent state revenue forecasts are any indication, they say, storm clouds may be on the near horizon.

Talton: Washington growth stumbled in third quarter

Washington state saw a notable decline in gross domestic product growth for last year’s third quarter.

Crosscut: Does better school funding require a new deadline?

Part of the taxing authority schools have long used to fund themselves is set to expire next year, and privately and publicly, some Republicans have raised the idea of using the expiration as a de facto deadline, to force the state to replace local funding with state money. And in something of a reversal, Democrats have found themselves arguing against the idea of the harder deadline, saying that the 2017 Legislature may not be able to make a fix soon enough to avoid causing huge budget problems for schools.