Seattle Market Review: All That Glimmers is not Economic Gold

There are bright spots in the Seattle economy but too many still remain upside downIt’s been a while since I lamented the state of Seattle’s local economy and the continued decimation of the nation’s economic backbone – small businesses, and with it the middle class. So after a hiatus due to some shuffling of work priorities accompanied by fits and starts, plus a recovery from knee surgery, Seattle Media Maven is ready to kick up some dust.

I’ll start with some links to the past few months of Seattle Market Review, a compilation of the goings and comings, and highs and lows in the Seattle market area. There’s plenty of bright spots, but the market still struggles to right itself.

Seattle Market Review May 2013

Seattle Market Review April 2013

Seattle Market Review March 2013

Seattle Market Review February 2013

Seattle Market Review January 2013

Every month, there seems to be some glimmer of hope about the local job scene, which would portend very good things for the lackluster economy if it were anything more than a glimmer. It seems we have come to a point where “not as bad as it was before” is the standard by which we judge our current state of affairs. The “recovery” is the same as it has been for the past five years and at the current rate of growth, we won’t be back to full employment until sometime in the next decade. The latest jobless numbers show King and Snohomish County inching down below 6% while the state rate lingers at a still depressing 7.5%. Pierce County continues to struggle at 9.1%. Little or no mention in the news is given to the fact that these reductions rely heavily on the millions of long-term unemployed who have left the workforce altogether and no longer are counted as “unemployed.” This alternate, un- and under-employed and potentially unemployable economy is a very large anchor dragging behind, and potentially sinking the good ship productivity.

Small business owners continue to be quite pessimistic about the economy and job growth in this sector has ground to a standstill. It will take a manifest improvement in sales to convince them to add more employees and the overall prospects for that occurring are negligible.

Walking around South Lake Union, home of the Amazon campus, or other high-tech corridors, one would never guess this undertow existed. But step not far outside the high-tech havens and it doesn’t take long before you are passing the food-line crowd gathered outside the local church, seeing yet another blue-tarp encampment along the freeway or looking into the eyes of a former executive now managing the crew at the neighborhood Sub Shop.

Still, we are fortunate in this market. The fact that Seattle and King County are faring better than the rest of the country is due largely to the abundance of college graduates in the area, especially those in high-tech occupations. According to The Atlantic’s Matthew O’Brien, college graduates are the only group that has added jobs in the past five and a half years and those without a degree not only were the hardest hit in the recession, but have also gotten hit during the recovery. The Seattle market may temper this trend with the shedding of 700 engineering jobs this year and 1,500 IT jobs at Boeing over the next three years, which may take the remaining ones and leave the market altogether. Add to this that many middle-class workers finding work have been forced to accept lower-wage jobs (40% of the new jobs are in low-wage areas) — and may be taking on more than one job to make ends meet — and you can imagine what it does to time for media consumption and the ability to consume what you have to sell.

In other words, even with all the top-side news, we need to pay heed to the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be turned upside down. In our next installment, we’ll profile and take a look at media choices of those who have weathered the recession the best and are our best bet for igniting the spark of a real recovery: target full-time employed college graduates.

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Seattle Media Maven is open to your suggestions for content and always welcomes tips, feedback, questions – whatever is on your mind about the Seattle market and the media that serve it! Use the Comments box below or email us at seattlemediamaven@seattletimes.com.
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