More positive economic news: Metro Seattle posts income gains, reduced unemployment. But prosperity not shared statewide

Yesterday we wrote about the big jump in median household income nationally. Now, we get more solid evidence of the continued strength of the Seattle economy

If your household earns less than $80,000 per year, you’re now in the minority in Seattle.

That stunning news came to light in data released Thursday by the Census Bureau. It shows that in 2015, Seattle’s median household income broke the $80,000 mark.

How? By jumping nearly $10,000 in just one year.

That’s the biggest increase among the 50 most-populous U.S. cities — and it wasn’t even close. No. 2 San Francisco’s jump lags behind us by more than $2,000.

There’s more

After eight months of not budging, the state unemployment rate finally dipped ever so slightly in August, while the Greater Seattle area’s jobless rate dropped to its lowest level in eight years.

The statewide jobless rate of 5.7 percent in August was down from 5.8 percent in July, though up from 5.6 percent in August 2015, according to preliminary, seasonally adjusted figures released Wednesday by the state Employment Security Department.

That statewide figure remains stubbornly almost a point above the national unemployment rate, which was 4.9 percent in August, about where it’s hovered since last fall.

The Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 4.1 percent in August, down from 4.4 percent in July and from 4.5 percent in August 2015. That’s the lowest the Seattle-area unemployment rate has been since July 2008.

That’s a big gap between metro Seattle and the rest of the state. Remember, that relatively high 5.7 percent August unemployment rate reflects the outsize effect of Seattle’s low unemployment. Many counties continue to struggle with unemployment rates of 6 percent or higher. (New county data will be released on the 20th and we’ll revisit those numbers then.)

As we’ve written, the health of the Seattle economy, largely attributable to vibrant tech and professional services sectors, allows the city to experiment with regulatory policies like the $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave and “secure scheduling.” Similar policies would doubtless dampen the economies of communities still searching for recovery.

Our roadmap identifies policies in education (Achieve), transportation (Connect) and economic vitality (Employ) that will lift communities throughout the state. While we celebrate the metro Seattle prosperity, we urge policymakers not to confuse correlation with causation.