State employment data show continued urban-rural divide

Washington’s economy continues to show a significant gap between urban prosperity and struggling rural counties. The pattern, of which we’ve written previously (here and here) is confirmed by the January employment report from the Employment Security Department. ( See county unemployment map.)

As the chart shows, the Seattle metropolitan area continues to demonstrate low and falling unemployment. The metro area’s 3.7 percent unemployment is well below the statewide rate of 5.1 percent. The statewide rate exceeds the national rate of 4.8 percent. These numbers are all preliminary and subject to revision. 

Outside the metro area, a number of counties continue to show unemployment rates higher than 7 percent; Grant, Yakima, Franklin, Ferry and Adams counties have unemployment rates higher than 10 percent.

The employment report leads with the numbers overall:

On a seasonally adjusted basis, preliminary estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate nonfarm employment in Washington fell by 7,200 from December 2016 to January 2017.1 BLS estimates the private sector lost 3,600 jobs during the month and the public sector lost 3,600 jobs.

On a not seasonally adjusted basis, estimates for January 2016 through January 2017 indicate an increase in employment of 84,600 for the state. The private sector added 73,800 jobs while the public sector gained an estimated 10,800 jobs over the year.

The industry-specific overview for the month reports:

Based on a BLS survey of businesses and governments, Washington lost an estimated 7,200 jobs during the month, on a seasonally adjusted basis:

  • Overall, six industries expanded employment in January, six contracted, and one was unchanged.

  • Private sector employment is estimated to have decreased by 3,600 and government employment decreased by 3,600.

  • Education and health services employment rose by 3,000, with a gain of 4,800 in health services offsetting a loss of 1,800 in private education services.

  • The number of jobs in nancial activities increased by 1,300, led by a gain of 1,100 jobs
    in nance and insurance.

  • Retail trade employment rose by 900 overall, with the most jobs added by clothing and clothing accessories stores.

  • Construction employment decreased by 1,000 overall with 900 fewer employed by specialty trade contractors.

  • Employment in leisure and hospitality decreased by 5,000 overall, with 4,100 jobs lost in food services and drinking places.

While much of the state’s economic activity remains centered in the prosperous metro Puget Sound region, it is vital that policymakers consider the impacts of their tax and regulatory policy on struggling rural regions.