All signs point to continued promise for job seekers in most sectors across the region this year.
There’s more good news in store for local job seekers in 2017. The job sectors expecting the most growth in the upcoming year are those that traditionally signal a healthy overall economy, like professional and business services and computer and mathematical occupations.
This isn’t too surprising coming out of 2016, a year with big job growth overall. Washington state showed an estimated 2.9 percent growth in number of jobs last year, according to the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC).
Professional and business services jobs — expected to grow at more than 3 percent in King County this year, according to projections from Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) — are a good indicator of the overall economy because jobs that fall in that sector are actually used in a wide range of industries.
“Professional and business services serve a collection of industries; what they share in common is they do work that’s contracted by other businesses,” says Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist with ESD. “This is going to range from computer design services to architectural and engineering services, landscaping and janitorial services. You wouldn’t see a lot of growth in professional and business services if businesses were not feeling optimistic,” she says.
War for tech talent
Computer and mathematical occupations may sound like they belong to the tech world alone, but like business services they can pop up in different industries, from retail to health care. According to projections from the ESD, jobs in computer and mathematical occupations in King County are expected to grow by 3.5 percent in 2017, with 4,600 new jobs being added. Head south to Pierce County and that expected growth goes down to 2.8 percent, with an estimated 168 jobs added. North in Snohomish County, these occupations are expected to see a 1.3 percent growth rate with just 119 jobs added.
And those big tech companies in King County will continue to play their part in hiring as well. According to a recent survey by Robert Half, a staffing firm in Seattle, 63 percent of chief information officers they spoke with in the region said it was “somewhat” or “very challenging” to find skilled IT professionals in the Seattle market.
“The war for talent is immense,” says Megan Slabinski, the district president for Robert Half Technology. “In Seattle specifically, you’ve got large employers — we all know who they are — with massive amounts of openings in the tech space.”
Slabinski says they expect to see hiring in the tech field to remain heavy in 2017, especially in areas like database management, specifically big data, or anything within the mobile or security space.
Across the pay spectrum
Not all job growth will be centralized in high-earning tech jobs, though. Retail jobs statewide are projected to grow 2.8 percent, and jobs in leisure and hospitality are expected to grow 2 percent in 2017, according to the ERFC. Both are slowdowns from the estimated growth those job sectors saw in 2016, but according to Steve Lerch, chief economist and executive director of the council, those numbers still indicate “pretty good growth.”
And both of those sectors include jobs ranging across the pay spectrum. “The retail trade sector in Washington is interesting, of course, because that retail sector includes everyone from people working for online retailers to people working in convenience stores,” says Lerch. “[Similarly,] leisure and hospitality can include jobs from fast food to fine dining.”
On the other side of the coin, some industries, like manufacturing and engineering, are due to see some job slowdown and potentially even decline in 2017. In King County, the ESD projects manufacturing jobs will see a decline of 0.75 percent, and architecture and engineering occupations will be essentially stagnant.
“Manufacturing is a sector that gave us a great boost coming out of the recession,” says ESD’s Vance-Sherman. “At this point, though, we see manufacturing has fallen pretty flat. That’s largely the nature of these business cycles.”
Even with these slowdowns and declines, Lerch, at the ERFC, says all hope is not lost for future job seekers in these fields. “For someone out looking for a job, even in the aerospace sector where we see decline in the net number of jobs, there will still be hiring. That’s because baby boomers are starting to retire and some of those jobs will need to be filled,” says Lerch.
While the ERFC projects job growth for 2017 in Washington state at 1.9 percent — not quite as big as 2016’s estimated 2.9 percent — Lerch says it’s still growth.
“2016 was a year with really strong employment growth,” he says. “So, we are expecting things to slow down a little bit in 2017. That’s pretty logical. As unemployment gets lower, think about where you find new employees now: people who live here now who don’t have jobs, people coming out of school who don’t have jobs or someone who moves here — that pool gets smaller.”
From October 2015 to October 2016, an estimated 102,000 jobs were added in Washington state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That growth has pushed the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the state down to 5.3 percent from 5.7 percent in November 2015. In November, the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area’s unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, down from 4.8 percent a year prior. If those trends continue, all signs point to continued promise for job seekers in our region in the coming year.
“Seattle remains one of the hottest markets in the country in terms of hiring, not only within tech, but [also] ancillary roles spun out of the technology market,” says Slabinski, of Robert Half. “Seattle has definitely been a thriving market, and all the data and info I’ve seen on 2017 show that it looks to remain strong.”