NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 19, 2010

From March 2008 to March 2009, the number of private sector jobs in the city of Seattle fell by 23,173 (5.6 percent), from 415,165 to 391,992.  Of the lost jobs, 3,729 were in construction.   A discussion of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) data and Seattle's job growth from 2000 to 2008 as presented in Washington Research Council's (WRC) policy brief titled "Seattle's Lost Decade," revealed disturbing trends. 

For example: 

  • Seattle's population has grown by 39,000 since 2000, however, over the same period, the city has lost jobs.
  • Seattle faces strong competition from six suburban cities east of Lake Washington; during the 2000 to 2004 contraction, Seattle lost more private sector jobs than the Suburban Six lost.
  • During the 2004 to 2008 expansion, the Suburban Six added more jobs than Seattle did; as a result, the number of private sector jobs in Seattle in 2008 was 1.9 percent below the 2000 number.
  • For the Suburban Six, in contrast, private employment was 10.3 percent greater in 2008 than in 2000. 

Jobs in these cities pay more, on average, than jobs in Seattle.  The average private sector wage in Seattle in 2006 was $54,400.  Among the six suburban cities, only Issaquah was lower. 

As population growth drives up the demand for services, the failure of employment to grow will strain city finances.  Businesses face higher rates of taxation in the city than in the suburbs -- Seattle gets 54 percent of its general tax revenue from taxes on business.  To reverse the trend in jobs, Seattle must become more competitive within the region.  If this does not happen, the alternatives are either fewer public services or higher taxes on residents, says the WRC. 

Source: Report, "Seattle Lost More Than 23,000 Private Sector Jobs Between March 2008 and March 2009," Washington Research Council, April 15, 2010; and "Seattle's Lost Decade: The City Had Fewer Private Jobs In 2008 Than In 2000," Washington Research Council, Policy Brief 09-01, August 10, 2009. 

For text:  

For policy brief: 


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