When most people think of Seattle they conjure up images of relaxed hipsters and mellow ex-hippies communing with nature. While this notion is not entirely incorrect, it also ignores something very important about Seattle:
Seattle is at war.
How can this be? How can the marijuana- and mustache wax capital of the U.S. be involved in something so uncharacteristic of its chill reputation? Well, the war that Seattle is waging has nothing to do with weapons or violence—it’s a war for talent.
“A War for Talent”
As anyone with an ear to the ground knows, Seattle’s job market has been exploding over the past several years, and experts predict that it will only continue to grow.
Nothing signals a warmer welcome for workers than a booming economy with a low unemployment rate, and Seattle boasts these and more. Job-seekers are right to be encouraged by the supply-and-demand ratio being strongly in their favor, with employment options available across a broad range of fields.
While the state expects to experience a slight slowdown, unemployment rates in Seattle are expected to remain lower than the rest of the country. “At this point there’s a little bit for everybody,” says Anneliese Vance-Sherman, one of the state’s Department of Employee Security’s regional economists. With a 3 percent growth in the job market in 2017 and the projection for 2018 to nearly maintain that rate (2.4 percent), Seattle’s numbers appear to be holding strong as the recession continues to recede.
“It is an all-out war for talent,” insists Josh Warborg, district president of the Seattle-based office of staffing firm Robert Half. And he doesn’t foresee any changes in the near future: “We have some pretty good-size companies in Seattle that are consistently adding people and don’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.”
From Tech to Construction, Seattle Needs It All
The need for labor, Warborg says, is not limited to degreed professionals only. There is a labor shortage throughout Seattle’s job market, from positions requiring college degrees to those requiring none (the Employment Security Department indicates that the majority of growth will be in professional and business services, as well as in construction).
The demand for tech talent is especially visible as one visits Microsoft’s massive Redmond campus or strolls through Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood that Amazon calls home. According to Megan Slabinski, another Robert Half district president, “Technology is continuing to be a larger portion of the workforce than ever before. There’s increased hiring and new positions in technology in all of Western Washington.”
And according to Vance-Sherman, in King County computer and mathematical jobs are expected to see continual growth throughout 2018. ESD data indicates that these jobs should see a 4 percent growth rate statewide, with a net increase of 7,000 jobs across a broad range of sectors. In King County this rate is projected to be even higher: a growth rate of 4.34 percent is expected, with almost 6,000 new jobs added to the market.
Slabinski highlights cloud computing, cybersecurity, DevOps, and data analytics as areas of especially high demand.
Local Businesses are Optimistic
To hear Vance-Sherman tell it, ESD projections indicate nothing but optimism on the part of local businesses: “[It’s all about] where we are in the cycle: We have gone through a recession and there has been a lot of pent-up demand for construction and professional business services. At this point, we expect to see that high growth — and that has been the case.” She adds, “These businesses only attract business when their customers are feeling good about the economy.”
When it comes to professional and business services—which spans everything from web developers to accountants to janitors—ESD data indicates that employment in these sectors will increase statewide by 3.32 percent in the coming year.
This is telling because, according to Vance-Sherman, these two sectors’ customers are generally other businesses, meaning that confidence on their part is a kind of “bellwether for how other businesses are perceiving the economy.”
“Great News for Everyone”
Perhaps ESD economist Paul Turek put it best in a recent press release: “Washington’s economic outlook is bright. Unemployment stands at a record low, businesses are adding jobs, and more people are joining the labor force. That’s great news for everyone.”
Unlike a conventional war, therefore, Seattle’s “war for talent” spells health rather than hardship, and gains rather than losses.