City of Spokane Employment From 1990 through Dec 2012

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics provides historical employment data by city (for cities of 25,000 population or greater).

The following chart shows the total number of employed people from 1990 to the end of 2012 in the City of Spokane.

The City of Spokane has almost exactly the same number of jobs as it did in 1995-1996. There has been no growth in jobs in 17 years. Ouch. In addition, Spokane employment has become more cyclical – note the annual up and down cycle, at right, is greater than that prior to year 2000. (A county chart, after the break, shows no growth in jobs since 1998.)


Update: A comment asks if the flat job growth could be due to a flat population growth in the City of Spokane? Good question.

From the peak employment years near 2000 to the end of 2012, the City’s population increased by 7% while the number of jobs decreased by 9%. To answer the question, no, the flat job growth is not due to a flat population growth.

The following chart shows City of Spokane population from 1890 to 2010 (the horizontal axis is different than the 1990-2012 chart above) (Data).


All city employment charts were generated by the BLS web site tools.

Obviously, this is not a good trend, and is the 2nd worst job growth trend in the State, after Tacoma, in last place (other city growth trend charts shown after the break, below).

Second, you may remember claims made by the Spokane Public Facilities District (PFD) that expansion of the Convention Center would result in an increase in jobs in Spokane. Unfortunately, no increase in jobs is visible in the employment data.

After the break, charts of other large cities in the State of Washington. Only Tacoma shows a job market worse than Spokane. Notably, most cities in Washington show steady growth in jobs over this period of time, unlike Spokane.

It is possible that all new jobs just happen to be self employed or farm jobs and they do not appear in this BLS data. However, this would be the same for each of the cities shown below.

February 2013 “adjusted” employment data for Spokane County will not be available from the WA ESD until March 26th. BLS Raw data may not be available for another month. Historically, due to the local cyclical job market, January or February usually have the lowest number of employed people of the year, and then employment begins to rise again. 

City of Bellevue










Spokane Valley – note that the city did not exist in 1990 so the data series does not go back to 1990. The Valley shows a slight increase in jobs over this period.


Spokane County – the county encompasses several cities and this chart should not be compared directly with city charts.  This chart is included to show the difference between the County and the City of Spokane. County employment peaked in 2000 but is presently below the peak at 1998-2000. Red horizontal line added to show that employment is level since the end of 1998 (14 years).


Tacoma is the only city with a employment history similar to Spokane, with no growth back to 1996. Among larger cities, Tacoma has the worst record and Spokane is 2nd only to Tacoma in lack of job growth.

Tacoma completed construction of a downtown Trolley line in 2003, which was going to lead to an increase in jobs – yet job growth after 2003 was worse than in Spokane, which does not have a downtown trolley. Spokane downtown businesses are lobbying for a taxpayer funded downtown trolley system in Spokane – claiming it will help create jobs.


Walla Walla


Wenatchee (data only available from 1999 onwards). Both Wenatchee and Yakima show the season effect of agriculture employment but also show a slow but steady increase in jobs:




Unfortunately, when I saved the charts, I inadvertently deleted the charts for Bellingham and Vancouver, WA. But you get the general idea.


3 Responses to City of Spokane Employment From 1990 through Dec 2012

  1. High Line says:

    The flat job market here is not surprising. Spokane has always been stable in the course of its history. Even in the area of population growth the decade of 1910 to 1920 Spokane’s population itself was the same — no grow. There are opportunies in this levelness of jops and population. Perhaps Spokane has achieved, unwittingly, city sustainability.

  2. inlandnw says:

    I have not drawn a chart of City of Spokane historical population but that would be useful although population and jobs are correlated (usually in the association that job opportunities lead to population growth, rather than population growth leads to job growth – most people move for economic reasons).

    The County has seen a steady increase in population as shown in these charts

    Both Tacoma and Spokane suffered the loss of Kaiser manufacturing facilities and both cities seem to have thereafter followed similar flat job growth patterns.

  3. inlandnw says:

    I just drew a City of Population chart

    The city’s population has been increasing.

    The idea that the population might be steady state, and hence, matching flat job growth, was a good question to ask.

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