Another look at Spokane Employment / Unemployment data

The following charts are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Chart 1. This chart shows the same non-farm employment data (through August) as that provided by Washington’s web site, but the chart is easier to read – and the data extends back to January 2001, providing a better historical perspective.  Observation – at the peak year, the official unemployment rate was in the range of 5% to 6%. Since then we have lost 10% of all non-farm jobs and the unemployment rate is now 8.6%? This does not really make sense and explains why unemployment feels more like 15% to 16%.

Chart 2. This shows total employment, not just non-farm. We’ve lost about 7 years of job growth in Spokane County. If we had maintained the trend prior to 2008, Spokane would have around 240,000 jobs instead of 208,000 jobs. That means we are now 13% below the number of jobs that were expected in recent predictions about Spokane’s economy. Stated another way, 1 out of 8 jobs disappeared. Which makes the 8.6% unemployment rate look silly.

Comments on Unemployment and Zombie Buildings of Spokane

  • Spokane’s current non-farm job total of 201,800 is equivalent to the 201,600 first reached in June 2001.
  • Spokane has a lot of vacant retail space right now.
  • How much of this vacant space will re-fill and when? One of my correspondents suggests online shopping is hurting local retailers hard. This means a lot of local retail may not be coming back. Time will tell.
  • Another correspondent passed along comments from the manager of a large retail chain with some stores in town. From those comments, and some stock analyst reports, it seems this chain may be in trouble after the holidays and could go away, like several other national chains in the past few years.
  • The only businesses moving to Spokane appear to be low skill, low wage warehouse and call center businesses.

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