December 2013 Employment Update for Spokane County

Data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics

BLS Seasonally adjusted non-farm employment. Overall seasonally adjusted non-farm employment is at about year 2005 levels. The down trend in the past couple of months is of some concern – see next chart and commentary, below.


BLS Not Seasonally Adjusted non-farm employment. 2013 finishes the year with the 2nd employment peak falling slightly below the first peak (the last column shows 4 “peaks” as the column includes 2012 and 2013). As noted previously – the 2nd peak is usually greater than the first peak when job growth is continuing. When the 2nd peak is lower than the first peak, the local job market is shrinking. You can see this in the chart below for 2001, and 2008-2009. The pattern is similar to the 2001 downturn.  Is this signaling a possible regional recession? Far too early to tell but we should keep a close watch on this.


Here’s a chart that highlights the double peak and downturns in 2001 and possible downturn signaled in 2013 – the downturn of 2008-2009 does not need a highlight!



Update March 2014. The BLS has updated its data and charts through January 2014. They revised their previous data and now show a slight increase in the rightmost peak, and that is good news.  Looking at recent peaks, job growth remains quite weak.

We are now in the annual cyclical downturn, with unemployment at 8.7%. Which is super high by historical standards.

BLS Chart non-farm, not-seasonally adjusted, through January 2014:


Spokane Area Airport Operations Update

Spokane “International” Airport passengers per year. 2013 data through November and pro-rated to end of 2013. Data comes from SIA. Current passenger usage at SIA is about the same as in 1995.

Update in March: Passengers totals increased year over year for December and January which might finally signal the beginning of a turn around in airport usage. This is not reflected in these charts.


Next chart compares year over year – 2013 is the bottom light blue color. Chart comes from SIA web site.


Table showing the changes in passenger counts by carrier.  Frontier, Southwest and United have seen large percentage drops year over year. Table comes from SIA November report.  Official response from SIA is that “passenger demand remains strong” (huh?)


Data for Felts Field operations comes from the FAA. Chart title is incorrect – this is through Nov 2013 pro-rated to end of 2013.


Next chart shows combined all operations at SIA and Felts Field, over time since 1990. Data is from the FAA and the US Bureau of Transportation  Statistics. Does not include Fairchild AFB operations.


Troubling Indicator for Spokane Job Market

Chart showing total non-farm jobs in the Spokane County MSA, not seasonally adjusted – from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Spokane’s job market has two employment peaks every year. During periods of growth, the 2nd peak is higher than the 1st peak. During declines, the 2nd peak is lower than the 1st peak.

Look to the right of the chart – 2013 is the first time since 2008 when the 2nd peak has declined from the 1st, signaling a possible downturn in Spokane employment.

Compare this to the State of Washington (from WA State Employment and Security Department) showing a steady trend of continued growth.


After the data is “seasonally adjusted”, the BLS produces this chart. Note the sharp drop off at the right edge of this chart, as if the local job market is crashing. That is a sharper drop off than occurred at any time except the first 3 months of 2009.


The sharp downturn coincides with the latest expansion of the Spokane Public Facilities District’s (PFD) Convention Center.

Hopefully this trend will not continue in 2014 but it will be many months – perhaps the end of the year – before we know how this will turn out.

Action items

  • If you are thinking of moving out of Spokane in 2014, get your home on the market early this year.
  • If you are thinking of moving to Spokane, make sure you have a solid source of long term employment or income lined up before you arrive.