Everyone — employers, workers and out-of-work job seekers — it's time to listen up. There's a change in the air around the Puget Sound workplace.

Share story

Everyone — employers, workers and out-of-work job seekers — it’s time to listen up. There’s a change in the air around the Puget Sound workplace. The change is in attitude, and it’s one of the most important intangible aspects of finding that dream job.

Three workplace-related announcements in recent weeks may influence the way job seekers view their prospects for the next several months — or even years. The scars of the Great Recession are still raw, but the healing process has finally brought us to a turning point.

1. We’re back where we started. After more than six long years filled with false starts, disappointing setbacks and achingly slow progress, Washington state has struggled all the way back from the first days of the recession. Last week, the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) said that Washington, statewide, has created more jobs than it has lost since early 2008, which was the approximate start of the economic slump in our state.

Some of this, however, is due to an accounting adjustment. Apparently, we didn’t shed quite as many jobs as we thought we did. A benchmarking review by the U.S. Department of Labor discovered that Washington lost only 189,000 jobs — not 205,000, as was previously thought — between February 2008 and February 2010, at the nadir of the recession. Job gains have already surpassed that figure, with 193,000 created between February 2010 and January 2014.

Most Read Stories

Sale! Save over 90% on digital access.

In addition, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was 6.4 percent, which is the the lowest figure since financial firms began imploding in the fall of 2008. ESD labor economist Paul Turek says January’s reduction in unemployment was due mostly to a 3,800-job increase, rather than a shrinking of the overall workforce, as was the case for much of 2013’s monthly gains.

2. We’re not gonna take it anymore. Not surprisingly, the rosier hue of the job scene is leading to a certain restlessness among the workforce. According to a recent study from Harris Interactive and CareerBuilder, 21 percent of the 3,000 respondents surveyed said they were planning on changing jobs in 2014. That’s up from 17 percent who said the same in the 2013 version of the study, and a record-high percentage since the Great Recession “officially” ended in 2009.

The Harris/CareerBuilder poll found that one of the reasons for this employee wanderlust is a dip in worker satisfaction, from 66 percent in 2013 to just 59 percent today. About 18 percent described themselves as “dissatisfied” — a 3-point rise over the 2013 poll — citing such factors as inadequate salary, feeling undervalued, increased stress, poor opportunities for advancement and an unhealthy work/life balance. Employers take notice, or risk losing your best talent to the competition.

3. We’re coming back for the others. Although we are technically back to our pre-recession job levels, the employment landscape looks very different for those who have been unemployed for an extended time. By the ESD’s estimates, more than 195,000 Washington residents have run out of all unemployment benefits since July 2008, yet 118,000 of them are still unemployed.

About 60 percent of these former workers have college degrees and held highly skilled positions in the year prior to their layoffs. To try to bring as many of these people as possible back into the workforce, Gov. Jay Inslee authorized the ESD to deploy $4 million in federal funds to find jobs for the long-term unemployed. The funds come from the federal Rapid Response Program, which was created in 2009 to assist workers who had lost their jobs due to mass corporate layoffs.

At the moment, the exact use of these funds is unclear. Inslee said in last week’s directive that he wants the ESD to seek proposals from the 12 Workforce Development Councils around the state to devise new strategies for placing these skilled workers with the right companies. The governor has given a deadline of April 17 for the councils to submit proposals. Stay tuned.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.