Friday Roundup: E-commerce & jobs, tight labor market, critical-thinking skills, rural development, and productivity gains

There are always a few items we’ve read during the 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:

Associated Press: Why the explosion in e-commerce could mean more jobs

Automation has actually helped create jobs in e-commerce, rather than eliminate them, and stands to create more in the years ahead. By accelerating delivery times, robotics and software have made online shopping an increasingly viable alternative to bricks-and-mortar stores, and sales have ballooned at online retailers.

The surge in e-commerce has required the rapid build-out of a vast network of warehouses and delivery systems that include both robots and human workers. The robots didn’t take jobs from people, because many of the jobs didn’t exist before.

Puget Sound Business Journal: Labor market creates hiring headache for Washington’s fastest-growing companies

Nearly 70 percent of this year’s fastest-growing private companies are hiring, and human resource officers say the tight labor market and competition for talent is among their companies’ foremost challenges. The state’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent earlier this year, while in Seattle it’s at 2.6 percent, according to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Companies in construction, finance and technology, as well as the service sector, are feeling the pressure.

Seattle Times: When it comes to critical-thinking skills, Washington students need help, new analysis suggests

Making logical deductions: NoRedInk found that 53 percent of the state students in its analysis could tell if an argument leapt to an unjustified conclusion based on the evidence provided. That’s 1 percentage point better than the national average and 3 percentage points below the average in the Northwest region — which includes Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana as well as Washington state.

Distinguishing among claims, evidence and reasoning: Students were asked to highlight the claim, evidence and reasoning in a paragraph. Only 44 percent of Washington students were able to do so. Those results are 5 percentage points below the national average and 6 percentage points below the regional average.

Associated Press: US workers’ productivity jumps 3 percent in third quarter

U.S. workers’ productivity jumped 3 percent in the third quarter, the strongest gain in three years, while labor costs remained moderate.

The increase in productivity in the July-September quarter was double the 1.5 percent gain in the second quarter, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Unit labor costs rose a modest 0.5 percent in the third quarter, up only slightly from a 0.3 percent gain in the second quarter.

National Association of Manufacturers: Manufacturing Value-Added Output Rose $2.2 Trillion in Second Quarter, An All-Time High

Real GDP grew 3.1 percent in the second quarter, boosted by strength in consumer and business spending and net exports. According to new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, manufacturing was one of the larger contributors to that growth, adding 0.36 percentage points to top-line growth. Real value-added output from manufacturing increased by 3.2 percent in the second quarter, extending the 4.0 percent gain seen in the first quarter.

Tai-City Herald (Lampson-Johnson op-ed): Manufacturing is huge in Washington. Let’s celebrate – and invest – in it.

Clearly, more can be done to support good-paying manufacturing jobs here and across the state.

Lawmakers took one step in that direction this year by passing a modest manufacturing business and occupation tax reduction, evening out the tax rates of all manufacturers in the state…

Unfortunately, the governor vetoed the budget provision.

Manufacturers also need a skilled workforce — some 3.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs will be open during the next several years, making it critical that we show the next generation what today’s high-tech and clean shop floors look like. Then, we need to match those young adults with apprenticeship programs, trade and community and technical college opportunities and four-year programs that give them the skills to fit the needs of manufacturers in our area.

 The Vidette (Brunell column): Rural Prosperity Essential to Washington

Alex McGregor, who runs a 138 year-old family agriculture business, told AWB’s Rural Jobs Summit in Moses Lake there are new opportunities for rural areas.

State leaders need to focus on reducing the mountains of conflicting, confusing and overlapping regulations which neither towns and counties can afford to administer and overwhelms farmers, processors and manufacturers. Consequently, nothing happens.

He added that state manufacturing tax rates ought to apply to all manufacturers, state funding for roads, bridges and other infrastructure need rural emphasis, and support for education and training are essential for rural communities

Finally, our state elected officials need to be cautious about new sweeping legislative proposals, such as creating carbon taxes. They would have a heavy impact on farms and food processors.

Marketplace (audio, click through to listen): How much are 50,000 Amazon HQ2 jobs worth?