An Uptick of Net Jobs Created in Spokane

by Ryan Kempffer and Dr. Patrick Jones

The creation of jobs is often a sign of healthy economic development. In 2019, for the first time since 2006, Spokane County had a higher annual growth rate for net job creation than Washington State. With a growth rate of 2.1%, Spokane enjoyed a 0.2% lead in job creation over Washington’s 1.9%.

Highlighted in Indicator 2.4.6: Net Jobs Created on Spokane Trends, the annual growth rate of job creation for both Spokane County and Washington State has been tracked since 2003. This measure utilizes employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). This data provides a yearly outlook on the top employment sectors for each state and county. Additionally, the information helps pinpoint job loss and job creation through detailed labor statistics.

In 2019, Spokane employed 228,402 people. Additionally, those employed earned a combined $11,473,659,061. In 2018, Spokane employed 223,729 people and the earned wages equaled $10,807,253,488. When 2019 and 2018 are directly compared, the annual growth rate of 2.1% and a total wage increase of 6.17% can be derived.

According to Indicator 2.4.3: Share of Employment in Top-5 Largest Employing Sectors on Spokane Trends, the five largest employing sectors for Spokane County were Healthcare (18.6%), Government (15.7%), Retail Trade (11.7%), Accommodation and Food Service (8.8%), and Manufacturing (7.2%). Together, these five sectors made up 62% of all employment in Spokane County. For Washington State, the five largest sectors were Government (16.5%), Healthcare (12.6%), Retail Trade (11.2%), Accommodation and Food Service (8.4%), and Manufacturing (8.4%). These made up 57.1% of all employment in Washington State. Although the five largest sectors for both Spokane and Washington State were the same, in Spokane, Healthcare is the largest employer instead of Government at the state level.

In 2019, Spokane County created 4,673 more jobs than it lost. Below is a table showing eight employment sectors with the highest employment gain in 2019. When comparing the sectors with the highest employment gain, Spokane’s Real Estate sector accounted for 16.6% of all real estate jobs created in Washington State (see table further down this webpage titled Spokane County: Sectors with Highest Employment Gain, 2019).

In 2019, Washington State created 65,683 more jobs than it lost. Below is a table showing eight employment sectors with the highest employment gain in 2019. All together, these sectors represent 86% of all new employment in the State of Washington for 2019 (see table Washington State: Sectors with Highest Employment Gain, 2019).

Job creation also helps to lower unemployment rates. Between 2010 and 2019, the unemployment rate decreased by 4.6% in Spokane County. Since 1993, the earliest year tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics database for Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS), the unemployment rate has dropped by 0.5%. While yearly rates vary, the 2019 unemployment rate reflects continued job creation and explains, in part, why the annual growth rate has increased.

In 2019, Spokane County saw a 2.1% annual growth rate for net job creation that was larger than any other comparable eastern Washington metropolitan areas. In 2019, the Tri-Cities saw a rate of 1.9% down from 2.5% in 2018. In just one year, the Tri-Cities saw a 35.3% drop in net job creation. In 2019, Moses Lake lost 452 jobs, resulting in a negative rate of -1.1% from 2018.  In 2019, Walla Walla saw a rate of 0.04%, with a net increase of 12 jobs created. In 2019, Yakima had negative job creation rate of -0.32%, losing a net 369 jobs since 2018. Spokane County is experiencing job creation at a higher rate in 2019.

In 2019, two of Spokane’s highest gaining employment sectors were Construction and Real Estate. According to Indicator 2.3.2: Assessed Value of New Construction: Total & per Capita, in 2019, Spokane County saw an assessed value of $1,018.5 million for new property construction. This reflects a 24.7% increase from 2018. In fact, Spokane County has not seen an assessed value of new construction this high since 2007. Economists consider new construction as a leading indicator of the perceived strength of the local economy. When new construction is up, both business and household confidence in the economy is strong.

Furthermore, according to Indicator 2.3.1: Assessed Value of Taxable Total Property & Annual Growth Rate, total taxable property in Spokane County reached an all-time high with an assessed value in 2019 of 52.97 billion dollars. For comparison, in 2000, Spokane County had an assessed value of 19.01 billion dollars. This is a 179% increase in the total value of taxable property over just two decades.

Yet another factor that might be contributing to the addition of construction and real estate jobs in the area is growing awareness of the amenities of living in Spokane. In 2018, the City of Spokane spent $450,000 on a campaign entitled Hacking Washington promoting a variety of reasons to move to Spokane from places like Seattle and Portland. 

Spokane was ranked seventh in the United States as one of the best cities mid-sized cities (population between 20,000 to 300,000) to affordably live in by Livability’s “Showcasing America’s Best Places to Live.” Cities were assessed on a variety of factors including access to affordable health care, crime rates, and air quality. Overall, Spokane comes in at 41st in the top 100 list against cities of all sizes. The relatively lower cost of living and a strong economy are clear motivators to move to Spokane.

All things considered, 2019 saw an impressive improvement in annual growth rate for net job creation. While it remains to be seen how the annual growth rate will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; Spokane remains optimistic that jobs will continue to be created over the years to come.