Previews of Seattle Chamber’s new global competitiveness study: Concern for middle-income jobs, infrastructure

The Greater Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce will unveil this week a new look at the region’s global competitiveness. The news media got an early preview of the study, done for the chamber by the Boston Consulting Group. 

The Seattle Times reports

The loss of middle-income jobs in Seattle could put the region’s future global competitiveness at risk, according to a new study commissioned by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Between 2009 and 2013, the Seattle area lost 7,000 middle-income jobs, according to the Boston Consulting Group, which conducted the study. Those middle-income jobs paid a median $49,000 a year.

In contrast, the number of low-income jobs increased by 20,000, and the number of high-income jobs went up by 18,000.

BCG again cited the region’s skills gap. (We have previously reported on the gap.)

Currently, the region is not producing enough homegrown talent with the right skill sets for the middle- and high-income jobs of the future, said John Wenstrup, senior partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group.

The Times noted that BCG also cited the region’s reliance on four major employers – Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing and the University of Washington. Reporter Janet I. Tu summarizes the conclusion:

Among the most pressing issues affecting Seattle’s global competitiveness are education gaps, the limited economic diversity, the lack of a “cohesive global brand,” income inequality and infrastructure gaps, according to the study.

KPLU highlighted the infrastructure challenge

Cities around the globe are competing for jobs, and especially good, middle-class jobs. A new study says Seattle has fallen a bit behind some other cities, in part, because of problems with infrastructure…

”You take places like Stockholm, where the numbers are upwards of 75 percent of people who don’t use a car at all for commuting, the bar is incredibly, incredibly high on a global scale, but we even lag places like Vancouver and San Francisco, who have terrible, terrible infrastructure,” said Wenstrup.

Singapore ranked number one in the study. Wenstrup says the transportation package approved by the legislature this year should help Seattle in the future to attract businesses and good jobs.

The Puget Sound Business Journal also covered the release, emphasizing a cautionary note.

A city, however, should not depend upon the increase in tech jobs as a substitute for more diverse job growth. Tech sector jobs, he added, may not always bring in the big bucks.

“A software engineer right now makes $70,000 to $80,000,” he noted. “In China, it’s $22,000, and in India it’s $6,000…Global leveling will occur. It will be brought into balance…

The emphasis on closing the skills gap, investing in infrastructure and promoting economic diversity parallels our “priorities for shared prosperity.” We’ll link to the full report when it’s available.