Local economy blamed for cancellation of Spokane Pow Wow event

She says there wasnt enough funding for this years event. They accept a grant from the City of Spokane most years and this year the Parks and Recreation Department offered to wave $12,000 in fees. Still, that wasnt enough.

Major donors like Avista were able to pitch in, but Warren went on to explain that the downturn in the economy put a dent in donations from small businesses and the community.

via Downtown Spokane Pow Wow Canceled Due To Lack Of Funding – News Story – KXLY Spokane.

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Spokane area unemployment for July 2011

  • July 2011 preliminary unemployment estimate is 9.0%.
  • Total non-farm employed: 201,100 (or 5,100 fewer than in June – that is bad)
  • Total labor force: 225,220
  • June’s 9.1% preliminary number was revised to 8.9% (this is good)
  • 2010 average unemployment figure was 9.74%. From Jan-Jul, 2011, the average is 9.514%.
In the data table that follows, the drop in non-farm employment to 201,100 is troubling. That is about 16,000 fewer jobs than in the same month in 2008 and is fewer jobs than in July of last year.
Year over Year Changes
While the employment situation has stabilized, the following chart shows that the area has continued to lose jobs.  We should watch this chart carefully over the next few months to see if we are headed back into recession, or just bouncing along the break even point.
This chart shows the year-over-year change in employment. All of the recent green bars below the zero line indicate losses. We do not want to stabilize here as that would mean we have stabilized at a new, lower employment level.

Low demand for highly educated, high skilled workers in Spokane

As shown in the post, below, pay for high skilled private sector workers in Spokane County (law, business, science and technology) is surprisingly low.

What It Means

  • The demand for high skilled workers in Spokane County is low.
  • There are about twice as many people with a 4-year degree as there are job openings needing a 4-year degree qualified worker*.
  • There are about three times as many people with graduate degrees as there are job openings needing a graduate degree qualified worker*.
  • The low demand for highly educated workers in Spokane is a likely reason wages for the highly skilled are so low.
  • About 2/3ds of the job openings require a high school diploma or less.

Chart comes from the Community Indicators of Spokane.

Besides the “Recommendations” posted in the right most column of this web site, what else might be done to create an ecosystem demanding higher skilled workers in Spokane?

Update: Local PR news article refers to Spokane as a “blue collar city”, which helps to explain the low wage issue. This article is part of a lobbying effort to continue receiving a 30% taxpayer funded subsidy to movie makers in Washington. For amusement, see how the local TV news hacked this story down to a few meaningless sentences. Funny.

* About 25% of adults here have a 4-year degree but the demand is about 12% to 15% of job openings. About 10% have a graduate degree but the demand is about 2% to 4% of job openings. Spikes in 4-year degree job openings in 2007-2009 have to do with the recession when lower skilled workers were typically the first to get fired and higher skilled workers were the first to be hired.

Comparison of average wages between Spokane and King Counties

A sample of job categories was selected from the Workforce Explorer web site for Industry Trends. A few were dropped out because the job category did not exist in both counties.

  • Most Spokane County workers are paid less and professional high skilled private sector workers are paid a lot less.
  • While we have come to expect lower pay in Spokane, some of the differences are shocking.
Table of average wages in $s in Spokane versus King County. The difference is shown in the right most column. Bright green is higher. Dark green is “close”. Bright red is -24% or worse difference.
Occupation Spokane King County Spokane Pay
Public Schools/Education
Teacher 33207 36051 -8%
Elementary Teacher 58227 55921 4%
Education administrator 100703 102037 -1%
Government workers
Firefighter 61987 72591 -15%
Police and Sheriff 64560 72205 -11%
Zoologists and wildlife biologists 57261 62254 -8%
Health Care
Pharmacist 107792 95782 13%
Registered Nurse 65735 77800 -16%
Physician assistant 88684 100508 -12%
Dentist 147660 159630 -7%
Nursing aides 24342 30917 -21%
Private Sector Jobs
Science and Technology
Industrial engineer 69391 83122 -17%
Mechanical engineer 62946 82890 -24%
Software engineer, apps 70504 94071 -25%
Software engineer, systems 74135 99318 -25%
Computer programmer 54288 95782 -43%
Chemist 50917 73321 -31%
Chemical technician 38653 35160 10%
Law & Business
Lawyer 90215 118674 -24%
Paralegal 35344 53588 -34%
Marketing manager 108781 125807 -14%
Sales manager 82235 119374 -31%
Advertising/promotions manager 48198 101550 -53%
Architect 83145 72237 15%
Editors 58218 61492 -5%
Reporters and correspondents 40346 54105 -25%
Labor
Roofer 35953 46263 -22%
Truck Driver 39584 43626 -9%
Sheet metal worker 35946 57792 -38%
Cooks, all other 23731 29322 -19%
Retail sales 21486 24151 -11%
Bus and truck mechanic 42489 51252 -17%
Hairdresser, stylist, cosmetologist 33459 32702 2%
Mobile heavy equip. mechanic 41968 59303 -29%

Wage data from the State’s Workforce Explorer Industry Trends section.

What It Means
  • Education sector pays about the same.
  • Government and health care pay some what less.
  • Private sector highly educated workers are paid remarkably less.
  • Those considering moving to Spokane need to consider the income ramifications of their career sector.
  • At present pay levels, there will not be a science or technology cluster in Spokane. With extraordinarily low pay, Spokane will have difficulty attracting high quality scientists and engineers needed to create a regionally or nationally competitive science and technology cluster.
  • At present pay levels, the same issue impacts creation of national classes businesses.
  • “Editors” average is about the same in both counties. This may account for why there is little news coverage of the chronic low wage problem in Spokane – low wages do not affect them!  But reporters’ pay – ick!
Would be interesting to compare pay scales to Benton-Franklin counties, and to Clark County (Vancouver, Wa) area.

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Inflation Adjusted Average Wages in Spokane County

Good news – inflation adjusted average wages in Spokane County have gone up from 1990 to 2010.

Bad news – wage growth from 2001 to 2000 was 13.7% but wage growth from 2001 to 2009 was 5.5%.

  • The second period was selected to start from the lowest post 2000 wage (the bottom in 2001) to the end of the series in 2010.
  • The first period was selected to start in 1991 and run to 2000 (local peak) so that the same number of years would be in both groups.

What it means:  Wage growth in Spokane was much lower after the peak in 2000 and is now growing less than half as fast as prior years.

Oddity: Why did average wages shoot up in 2008 and 2009 in the midst of the worst recession since The Great Depression? Lower wage earners were laid off their jobs. Eliminating lower wage workers causes the average to rise.

Bottom line: Since 2000, average pay in Spokane has risen at a slower rate than prior to 2000. That’s unfortunate.

Reminder: The “average” is not the same as the “median”.

Spokane County Average Wages (not adjusted for inflation)

We took a look at the median wage, a while back. Here is a chart of the average wage (the median is not the average) – NOT adjusted for inflation:

The chart is taken from the fantastic Community Indicators of Spokane web site.  Some day I will try to produce a version with inflation adjusted average wages. Currently, the average wage in Spokane County is about 20% less than that of Washington State. It is apparent from the chart that the difference is growing wider over time.

Bank of Whitman Fails, 12 of 20 branches closed

FDIC: Press Releases – PR-132-2011 8/5/2011.

12 of 20 Whitman branches are being shut down and 8 will be taken over by Columbia State Bank. Because Whitman was an employee stock ownership program bank, those employees with stock will lose their entire stock ownership value, as well as losing their jobs.

Previously, the two largest local regional banks, both based in Spokane (Sterling and AmericanWest), largely failed, as did a local credit union. These local banks made many local construction loans. With tighter contraints on lending now in effect, there will likely be less lending available for local construction projects and small businesses, which could slow Spokane’s economy further.

Other regional banks include Wheatland Bank, Bank of Fairfield, Washington Trust Bank and Inland Northwest Bank.

Incompetent management or poor economy in the Spokane area? Your choice. I lean towards bad management since many other banks did not fail.

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