Riverfront Park Master Plan 2014 acknowledges low wage/poverty problem

Link to Spokane’s Riverfront Park Master Plan (PDF file). Most of the development ideas are pretty cool, and the park is in need of an upgrade.  The long term neglect is an indicator that reminds us of the poor economic situation. From the Master Plan itself:

“While the city of Spokane is the second largest metropolitan region in the State, it has some of the highest rates of poverty. Spokane’s median household income is just 70% of the statewide figure.”

More on that topic:

The following is quoted from those linked pages.

As you can see in the following chart, while Spokane (red line) wages have increased, average wages in the state (blue line) have increased faster. Over several decades, wages in the State have increased at twice the rate of wages in Spokane. Stated another way, the longer we stay in Spokane the further behind we fall.

Average wages are about 80% of the rest of the State, yet our costs of living are closer to 100%. We have to spend close to the national average to live here (somethings, like health care, are priced higher than the national average).

[Update: The Riverfront Park Master Plan says that median wages have fallen to the 70% level. The chart above uses average wages, not median, but chances are good that the average wage has fallen further, as this has been a 30 year trend.]

Source: Spokane Poverty Rates

Spokane Employment and Unemployment Update

Long term trend from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

SMS53440600000000001_246930_1403720257481Shorter term data (which may include local adjustments) from the Washington Employment Security Department’s Numbers and Trends web site:


The chart now shows steady job growth. Unemployment has dropped, as this blog predicted long ago, at about a one percentile point per year rate.


If everything remains the same, total jobs may reach the prior peak 2008 level by 2016. Old projections thought that by about 2016, there would be 235,000 jobs. This is roughly where jobs need to catch up to be comparable to the jobs/population ratio in 2008, due to continued population growth. However, labor force participation has been falling, which means more people are not working (either by choice or because they gave up looking for work).


The simplest “take away” is that the Spokane MSA will be back to 2008 jobs level by about 2016. The  United States as a whole already reached the 2008 level earlier this year; Spokane is taking twice as along as the rest of the country.

A related takeaway, however, is that job growth remains tepid, growing about half as fast as during the 2002-2008 period or the 1990 to 2000 period. Just look at the red line versus the blue line to see the job growth rate, visually. Slow growth in employment is likely to retain Spokane’s low wage problem. (Another post on that shortly).