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Year in Review: The Washington State Economy

PHOTO: The majority of the 60,000 new jobs added in Washington in 2013 are in low-wage industries such as food service. Photo credit:
PHOTO: The majority of the 60,000 new jobs added in Washington in 2013 are in low-wage industries such as food service. Photo credit:
December 31, 2013

SEATTLE – This year, the state of Washington has outpaced the sluggish national economy, but not by much.

The Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI) crunched the numbers and found even adding 60,000 jobs in 2013, most are in the King County metro area and the majority are low-wage hourly positions that can't support a family.

If the pace continues, EOI Policy Director Marilyn Watkins says it could take four or five more years just to absorb the 235,000 Washingtonians now looking for jobs back into the workforce.

"Virtually any business owner will tell you what they need to add jobs, first and foremost, is customers,” she says. “What we really need to create jobs is a growing, robust middle class, and that's what we're lacking in our recovery."

Watkins adds Washington is fortunate to have some high-paying job sectors, such as aerospace and software development, that are doing well. But those results are tempered by lower-wage categories such as child care, retail and food service that also are growing.

That's one reason Watkins says working women didn't fare especially well in the state this year. They are the most likely to have jobs in the social service professions.

"If we look at what people are actually bringing home every month, women in Washington are only making about 60 percent of what men are making,” she explains. “And that means that all of those families that are dependent on women's wages are really having a harder time."

What will it take to jumpstart the economy in the New Year?

Watkins says she hopes the Legislature passes a transportation package, which would add more construction jobs to the mix.

"That's something that immediately brings income into communities all across our state, because people are put back to work at good-paying jobs,” she says. “But it also is rebuilding our infrastructure, and that's something that helps all of our communities, every business in the state."

EOI also notes Washington is ending the year with 6,400 fewer state government workers than it had five years ago.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA