Business Employment Dynamics in Washington – First Quarter 2019

2019 is a year of some gains and some losses

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Analyzing statistics is always a tricky business. No number exists in isolation. Every data point has its origins and its ultimate ending point – and every point along the way is subject to interpretation.

The 2008 Great Recession, for example, hit many (including a few presidential candidates) by surprise – just checkout most mainstream business journals in the fall of 2008 – it was the biggest story of the decade and virtually all of them missed it.

Statistically speaking, the Great Recession ended the third quarter of 2009 – though the repercussions – foreclosures and bankruptcies continued – if not increased – for years.

Ten or so years later, most of us are still not sure what happened – or how to prevent it from happening again.

The most recent data set from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released in early December analyzes the numbers from the first quarter of 2019.

Here’s a short summary –

In Washington, from December 2018 to March 2019, net private industry employment rose by 15,967.

Making up the 15,967 net gain were 176,059 gross jobs gained and 160,092 gross jobs lost.

The leisure and hospitality industry had both the most gross job gains and most gross job losses.

Opening establishments added 19,521 jobs statewide, while closing establishments lost 16,744. (1*)

For the most part the economy of Washington state is healthy. We have more job gains than losses – but not by much.

Our economy looks better than the national average in terms of job gains and job loses – but again, not by much.

As always, some sectors were stronger than others – during the first quarter of 2019, gross job gains exceeded gross job losses in 10 of the 11 industry sectors in Washington.

As you might expect, education and health services grew – gross job gains exceeded gross job losses by 4,238. 19,823 jobs were gained in opening and expanding establishments in the industry, 15,585 jobs were lost by closing and contracting establishments in the first quarter of 2019. In retail trade, 19,588 jobs were created in opening and expanding establishments, while 16,113 jobs were lost in closing and contracting establishments.

Transportation and warehousing industry sector had a net employment loss, with gross job losses exceeding gross job gains by 281.

In other words, our statewide economy looks like a horse race – close, with no clear winner, so far.

Many of us were hoping for a clearly defined direction in our economy -preferable in a solid and positive direction.

We had many unexpected headwinds in 2019. With tariffs and trade deals emerging, contorting or collapsing on a near daily basis, our regional economy has plodded along – mostly in the black. Changes in tax laws, and environmental guidelines, as always, impact different industries and economic sectors in different ways.

Within our state, some regions did better than others.

You can see the fine print on the Greater Tacoma area here – or any other communities within our state here –

You can look at the stats of other states here –

Growth has, for the most part, been slow and steady – as it has been for a little over ten years.

It seems like everywhere I go I see “Help Wanted” signs.

It’s been several years since I have seen them at all – let alone at almost every business.

When it comes to 2019, I’ll choose “cautiously optimistic”.

In more ways than one, 2020 should be an adventure.

(1*) You can see details here – Image courtesy Bureau of Labor Statistics


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