For all of Seattle's self-image of an overheated economy, are things hot enough to create enough jobs?

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The unemployment rate for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan statistical area was 5 percent in December, up one-tenth of a point from the same month in 2014.

Seen another way, the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan division’s rate was 4.6 percent. That was up 0.4 percentage point and the largest year-over-year increase among the 38 most populous areas counted as metropolitan divisions.

Meanwhile, 25 metro areas nationally boasted unemployment rates of 3 percent or below, twice as many as a year ago, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

To be sure, a few are distorted by special circumstances. The North Dakota Oil Patch helped Fargo turn in 2.4 percent, even with falling oil prices. The college town of Ames, Iowa, was the lowest in the nation at 2.2 percent, echoed by similar tight labor markets in Iowa City; Provo, Utah; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Boulder, Colo., and Columbia, Mo., and others — all modestly sized places with economies centered around universities.

On the other hand, Salt Lake City, with a metro population of more than 1 million, turned in 2.8 percent, down from 3.1 percent in December 2014. Denver stood at 3.1 percent and Silicon Valley at 3.8 percent. In the Northwest, Boise’s rate hit 3,7 percent vs. 4 percent a year earlier.

Metro Portland’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent vs. 5.8 percent a year ago; Spokane 6.7 vs. 7.9; Olympia 5.9 vs. 6.7; Anchorage 5.6 vs. 5.3.

So the Seattle boom has some weaknesses as far as the job market goes. Why? We may be so desirable that some move here betting on the come, rather than having work already lined up. But as December showed, some softening in the labor market is also present.

Sure, unemployment between 4 percent and 5 percent in a major metro is what economists would call near full employment. But they have jobs.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Freeways are not free

But try making the costs real

It would take a toll