For all its flaws, the expansion is producing steady job increases.

Share story

With the exception of Alaska, states in the Pacific Northwest ended 2017 with record levels of employment. Washington totaled 3.7 million, Oregon 2.1 million and Idaho 839,000. People keep moving here and finding work, much of the region having long since passed pre-recession job peaks.

That’s especially true in the major metro areas. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue reached nearly 2.1 million jobs in December, according to new data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up 44,000 from December 2016. Ten out of 11 Washington metro areas (agriculture-dependent Yakima was the exception) showed improvements compared with the same month a year earlier.

Metro Portland employment topped 1.3 million, up more than 49,000 from the previous December. (The metro numbers are preliminary, and not seasonally adjusted.)

Alaska is a victim of falling oil prices. State employment peaked in early 2015, and has since fallen back. However, it still remains above the pre-recession peak and even rose slightly from December 2016 to December 2017. Anchorage employment increased, too.

Is this as good as it gets? You could be forgiven for wondering, given the age of this economic expansion and the volatility in the stock market. Nobody can tell, of course.

A job doesn’t fix inequality and the widening gap between big metros and smaller cities and rural areas. But it’s better than the scary employment situation that confronted us after the Great Recession.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

So will the House fold

And pass the Senate budget?

If not, whose (de)fault