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East meets West on jobs

Fri., Aug. 31, 2007

All you Western Washington aerospace workers and Eastern Washington farmers listen up: It turns out you are not such a big deal after all.

In a paradigm-busting report, the state Employment Security Department broke down the economy on both sides of the state and found it’s alike in many ways.

The top two employment sectors — health care and retail trade — were the same on both sides of the Cascade Range.

Manufacturing, such as airplanes, was the third biggest job category in Western Washington, making up 10.5 percent of the work force. Agriculture, including forestry, was the third biggest job category in Eastern Washington, 10.8 percent of workers.

The findings were a bit of a surprise to Evalina Tainer, an economist who decided to produce the study in honor of Labor Day.

“When you hear all the time that agriculture is the biggest thing on the east side and manufacturing is the biggest thing on the west side, I found this interesting,” Tainer said.

She also admitted that this could be information only an economist could love.

For Western Washington, the report found that 11.4 percent of workers are engaged in retail trade. Health care and social assistance comes in second at 11.3 percent of workers.

After manufacturing, Western Washington’s top jobs are in education (8.5 percent), lodging and food service (7.9 percent), construction (6.3 percent) and waste management and remediation services (5.4 percent). Agriculture is near the bottom, at 0.8 percent. Mining is at the bottom with 0.1 percent.

In Eastern Washington, health care is tops, at 12.8 percent, while retail sales comes in second at 12.1 percent.

After agriculture, it’s education (10.3 percent), manufacturing (8.5 percent), lodging and food services (7.5 percent) and government jobs (4.9 percent). Mining is also at the bottom here, with 0.1 percent of jobs.

The information category, which includes software jobs at places such as Microsoft, employs 4.6 percent of workers in the west at an average pay of $95,087 in 2006, highest category in the state. It employs just 1.6 percent of workers in the east, at average pay of $39,270. The best paying jobs in Eastern Washington are professional and business services, at $45,803.

The study also looked at the distribution of work by gender. Generally, about 80 percent of health care workers are women, 51 percent of retail workers are women, more than 80 percent of construction workers are men and less than 35 percent of education workers are men.

The breakdown of men and women in particular industries was about the same on both sides of the state.

The biggest employer of people under the age of 20 on both sides of the state is lodging and food services.

For older workers, education is the top industry, with more than 56 percent of workers age 45 or more on both sides of the state.

Unemployment rates have dropped on both sides, although it remains slightly higher in Eastern Washington because of seasonal farm work, the report found. In July, the rate was just over 4 percent in Western Washington and about 5 percent in Eastern Washington.

Projecting into 2014, the fastest growing jobs in Eastern Washington are expected to be education and health services (up 1.9 percent per year), and professional and business services (up 1.7 percent).

In Western Washington, fastest growing job sectors by 2014 are expected to be professional and business services (up 2.4 percent per year) and education and health services (up 2.3 percent per year). The only job sector projected to drop is manufacturing in Western Washington, down 0.3 percent per year.

One place where there is some big differences is pay, as average wages in Eastern Washington tend to be substantially lower.

For instance, education and health services workers average $38,116 in Western Washington and $33,491 in the east. Professional and business services workers made $53,884 in the west and $45,803 in the east. Manufacturing jobs average $61,935 in the west and $40,321 in the east.


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