The prediction is for continued progress, but the region hasn't yet regained all the jobs lost in the recession.

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Color it a pale shade of pink.

Though the 2005 jobs outlook for the Seattle area isn’t the rosy picture many workers would like to see, local economists anticipate fewer people will be feeling blue about unemployment in the coming year.

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There are even a few plum occupations on the horizon.

“If I could paint an overall picture, I would say that job growth in the metropolitan area will continue to get better, and the unemployment rate will be stable in the 5.5 percent range,” says Roberta Pauer, a Seattle economist with the state Employment Security Department. “It should be a year marked by progress.”

“The public’s notion that things are improving is right on,” says Pauer. “But 2005 will represent only another year of progress in our recovery. It will not be a ‘normal’ labor market for job seekers. We will not be back to ‘normal’ until 2008 because only then will jobs, relative to population, be back to where they were before the recession.”

Meanwhile, she says, local workers should be encouraged, yet careful, about state and national forecasts that use too broad a brush with hiring numbers.

The metropolitan region, which includes King, Snohomish and Island counties, makes up half of the state’s jobs, she emphasizes, “so it drives the statewide average. It dominates the state job growth rate.”

Good growth rate expected

Pauer cites the 30-month statewide recession, from January 2001 to June 2003, when employment totals in areas of Washington outside the metro Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area dropped by 10,000.

“But the Seattle area had a very serious, deep recession as compared with the rest of the state,” she continues.

“It was a markedly different story. In the metropolitan Seattle area, 98,000 jobs were lost.”

Since then, 30,000 new jobs have been created in this same area, but there is still a jobs deficit of 68,000, Pauer adds.

What it boils down to, she says, is “the forecast for 2005 is that we will recover about 33,000 more of our lost jobs — which will be a healthy 2.4 percent growth rate — but we will still be behind where we were when the recession started.”

ANNIE MARIE MUSSELMAN

Pablo Rodriguez, right, and his brother Alfonzo tie re-bar at a job site on Queen Anne Hill. The residential-retail project, called the Easthom Apartments, is being built by Compass Construction.

So what are the promising locales, industries and occupations in the state and Puget Sound in the year to come and beyond?

Pierce County, says Pauer, “should be strong.

Its jobs losses were small and were quickly gained back” after the dip because its military-related economy is somewhat “recession resilient.”

Health care “just solid”

Locally and statewide, private health-care and education services remain a “solid” industry, as well.

And while health-care job growth has been getting a lot of attention, Pauer says it’s not the “boom” industry of the next decade that some studies claim it to be.

“Let me debunk that myth: It’s solid, just solid. When you’re in an economy where you’re growing modestly while everything else is in a recession, you look like a superstar,” she says. “Health care has seen no lost jobs, so it looked spectacular. Again, it’s just solid.”

Statewide and locally, professional/business services should also see encouraging employment gains, according to Pauer.

However, she adds, with the buyout of Redmond-based AT&T Wireless by Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless, local telecommunications jobs could take a severe hit.

In late November, Cingular announced that it would cut about 10 percent of its 68,000 jobs, beginning this year.

AT&T Wireless had 30,000 employees at the time of the merger.

Those in the private sector have their own forecasts, too.

The construction industry has seen a jump in Seattle and Bellevue commercial-permit applications, typically a precursor to hiring.

And a recent Hebert Research survey of at least 150 Eastside executives indicates their highest confidence in the economy since 1999.

The hottest areas

When it comes to statewide analysis and a closer look at specific occupations, state economist Dave Wallace believes veterinary-related, housekeeping and child-care jobs could see the biggest hiring bumps over the next seven years.

Wallace recently shared results of a state Employment Security Department Labor Market and Economic Analysis report he prepared for state and local business leaders.

In it, he cites veterinary assistants, technicians and veterinarians in three of the fastest growing occupations through 2012.

Each is expected to grow by an average of at least 3 percent a year during that period. For sheer numbers, however, maids/housekeepers and child-care workers rank eighth and 10th, respectively, on that same list.

Some 25,562 expected new jobs are projected among house cleaners, and 14,107 new jobs are expected for child-care workers over the next seven years.

“Those are huge but I have to say that these large estimated numbers are in large part driven by self employment — and self employment is difficult to measure accurately,” says Wallace.

These figures, he says, could be “inflated” by part-timers who work as little as one day a week.

Software engineers

Perhaps more solid numbers come in a No. 9 on that list, where computer software engineers in applications positions are expected to grow by about 4,000 by 2012, this same report shows.

But Pauer cautions against pinning too many hopes on this 10-year forecast in 2005.

“Aerospace, which is essentially Boeing, and software, which is mostly Microsoft, are likely to be a small share of next year’s job growth,” she says.

“That’s another characteristic we’re expecting in 2005: the former glamour industries will not be the engines of growth in 2005.”

Fastest-growing occupations in the state (with at least 1,000 workers) through 2012
These figures represent the estimated number of workers per job occupation in 2002 (the most recent figures available) and state projections for 2012. For more information, go to: www.workforceexplorer.com
Occupation 2002

employment

2012

employment

Average annual growth rate Average salary (2003)
Veterinary assistant 1,140 1,565 3.2% $21,103
Veterinarian 1,207 1,643 3.1% $68,140
Maids/housekeeper 42,767 57,329 3.0% $18,194
Software engineer, application 15,891 21,219 2.9% $81,289
Child-care worker 42,184 56,291 2.9% $18,066
Technical writer 3,034 3,989 2.8% $66,554
Software engineer, systems software 12,967 16,899 2.7% $83,221
Source: Washington state Employment Security Department