Even as recovery is taking place, inequality is widening. The Seattle area’s economic expansion is favoring the wealthy.
Several years into the rebuilding after an economic earthquake, Washington state is doing well, by some measures. And the Seattle area? It’s booming, with a thriving tech sector driving the growth and unemployment reaching a 7-year low.
The state, as well as King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, has recovered the number of jobs lost in the Great Recession.
But as the recovery rolls on, inequality is widening.
Here, as elsewhere, the economic expansion has favored those who were already better off to begin with.
In the Seattle area, the top 5 percent of households — those making at least $230,000 in 2007 — saw their earnings fully recover to pre-recession levels. Meanwhile, the group earning less than $32,500 when the recession started — the bottom 20 percent — saw their incomes decline further.
Most of the jobs lost in the state between 2007 and 2013 paid less than $30 an hour, while the number of jobs paying $54 or more an hour saw big gains. That contrast was even more stark in King County, where jobs paying $54 or more an hour have soared.
And while home values have picked up since the lows of 2012, those in South King County have generally not rebounded to pre-recession levels, while those in Seattle and the Eastside have.
These charts don’t tell the individual stories of people — either those feeling increasingly squeezed or those who’ve benefitted from the area’s tech boom. We’ll be doing that in the weeks and months to come, in coverage that explores how these economic changes are affecting life in our communities.
The data here offers a baseline to help understand what’s happening in the Puget Sound area, as residents grapple with issues like the minimum wage and soaring rents, and wonder whether Seattle is becoming a city many can no longer afford.