Update: Major tech/manufacturing firms leave Spokane

I previously documented what happened to a large number of high tech and manufacturing firms that left Spokane during the past decade, as well as during just the past two to three years in “Major manufacturing and high tech employers close, leave Spokane” which provides a long list of firms that closed or downsized.

The Spokesman-Review today looks at what happened to some of the workers who used to be with Itronix (closed) and Agilent (closed) with anecdotal stories.  See Two years later, Spokane’s laid-off tech workers regroup – Spokesman.com – March 13, 2011.

Be sure to read the comments that readers have added to that story. Readers are saying the same things reflected in the data collected on this web site.

Some engineers have retired. Some have moved outside the area. Some found telecommuting work elsewhere. Some switched to other fields, with lower incomes. Some are involved in start ups here.  Some have returned to school.  Many suggest they would have moved elsewhere but were stuck due to family obligations or because of difficulties selling their home.

From a local economy standpoint, the start ups that may have been spun out of these losses are the best opportunity to translate the tech down slide into a longer term upside. I thought this was a positive story but then I read their “related” story … ugh.


The SR has a companion article “Area companies gained tech skills” that can only be described as Orwellian BS.  This revisionist article, based on anecdotes, implies we’ve only lost around 500 tech jobs. Which is misleading by setting the start of the downsizing to just a year or two ago – and goes against other SR reports that peg total losses at about 20,000 during the decade. But from that false premise they can then lead to a positive outcome.

They quote a local economist saying he’s “seen data” (secret data?) that shows tech companies “adding plenty of jobs in the past 12 months”. Doesn’t show up in the WorkForceExplorerc.com data which has been updated through January 2011 by the Washington State Employment Security Department. Tech jobs are likely to show up in the big category of Information (software is a tiny subset) and Professional and Business Services (again, a subset) or in Manufacturing. Let’s take a look at the charts through January 2011:

The news story is one of the most misleading pieces of reporting I have  seen in the Spokesman-Review in quite a while. Which  is why I try to always link to the original data. I do not make up the data. Anecdotal stories can be helpful to understand the narrative but they usually need to agree with the data.

A commenter claims that the Washington State data is simply all wrong. But in addition to the above industry sector charts, total jobs remain way down since 2007. I am sorry that the data is ugly.

A future post will discuss the common practice of “hide the decline” with examples and naming the organizations that do it. But part 1 will highlight some organizations that are honest and go out of the way to make their data accessible and presentable for the public. They are to be commended.

6 Responses to Update: Major tech/manufacturing firms leave Spokane

  1. art lande says:

    here are two things you don’t consider..

    many tech hires end up not in INf. Services. They really end up in manufacturing. Telect, Itron, Purcell, Schweiozter, f5,,, none of those are INFORMATION workers. And the manuf. data you have is not up to date.

    So get that right!

    And some jobs are in No. idaho . some of those other jobs are not in Spoane, but in Pullman. So your data set is hardly much help at all..

  2. inlandnw says:

    So the data from the Washington State Employment Security Department is wrong and out of date? That data is from their most recent report updated through January 2011 data. I look forward to see the February update which I think comes out tomorrow. (Correction: The full data release is not until March 24th.)

    Most jobs are showing up in Manufacturing? Really? The chart of manufacturing jobs above is using data up through January 2011. Did you not see that chart? The data show a drop off in employment in Manufacturing. Their data is all wrong? Why is their data all wrong?

    Can you cite alternative data? As I have posted on the right hand side of this web site, if you have better data, show it. I will update the information if I see better actual data from real data sources. May be, perhaps, kind of, sort of, if we drilled way down in to the many subcategories of the sectors we could find some growth in some subsectors, hidden down in there, somewhere. I’ll let someone else do that – this is a hobby.

    Here’s the summary of the government’s own data – January 2010 through January 2011:

    • Manufacturing – Decline of -200 jobs
    • Information – Decline of -100 jobs
    • Professional and Business Services – Increase of +200 jobs
    • Financial activities – Decline of -400 jobs (some IT jobs could appear in this category)

    There are not many other sectors where actual technology jobs appear. The WA ESD data says those sectors have seen a decline of -500 jobs in the past 12 months. Or a decline of -100 if we leave out Financial Activities.

    The total number of jobs in Spokane MSA is almost 10% less than the peak in 2007. You can see that chart here: https://inlandnw.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/spokane-unemployment-climbs-from-9-1-percent-to-10-5-percent/

    The jobs are in North Idaho or down in Pullman, a 1 hour 40 minute drive away? Could we see some data?

    Can we count the job growth in the Tri Cities too? The data says they’ve had a lot of growth.

    It is possible that there are lots of new the tech jobs in self employed, sole proprietor “start ups”, in which case, they won’t show up in the general data – but then they wouldn’t show up in the claimed tech jobs being filled quoted in the article, either. The WAESD “non farm” employment excludes self employed, sole proprietor and active duty military. Keep in mind, there is a standard joke in industry that “self employed consultant” sounds better than “unemployed”.

    I am glad that F5 Networks has done some hiring. I’ve written about their hiring on this web site in the past. That is good. As of this writing, they have two openings, plus one intern opening. You can find out more about their openings at:

  3. Pingback: Spokane Poverty Rates « Spokane Economic And Demographic Data

  4. This is a very interesting issue. I’d be interesting in exploring it in a feature for the Inlander. Could you give me a call at 509-325-0634 x263 so we could discuss this more?

  5. art lande says:

    I do have to dig down to find most recent mfg. sector data. I have seen something that doesn’t agree with your statement on a net loss in the past 12 months..

    Further, Information sevices as a industry (not a sector) has very little relevance to this topic. do you know what that industry coves???TV sttations, newspapers, and others not related to tech, directly…

  6. inlandnw says:

    Could you show the data that you’ve identified?

    It’s not my data that says there has been a net loss. That is the official data from the Washington State Employment Security Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    I know that Information covers a very broad sector. Unfortunately, “tech” does not show up in its own category. It shows up as various job titles within several sectors. Some of the software tech jobs show up in Information because they are classified as “software publishers” which is viewed as “information”. The BLS made change to how they classify jobs, about a decade ago and a lot of people were not happy with their new classifications.

    If you can provide the data and identify the source that shows a different perspective than that of the ESD/BLS, I’ll post it.

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