The Washington job market is so far rejecting the recent tech layoffs

SEATTLE — Washington technology companies are cutting thousands of jobs, but hiring in other industries remains surprisingly strong despite new signs of a slowdown next year.

Employers in Washington added an estimated 13,100 jobs in November, the state Employment Security Department said this week. That’s roughly double October’s job gains and beats the 11,000 new jobs the state added each month on average over the previous 12 months.

Hiring was particularly strong in health and social care, which added 4,600 jobs in November; professional and business services (2,200) and government (2,100).

Restaurants, hotels and other employers in the hospitality industry, which was hit particularly hard in the early stages of the pandemic, also continued to recover, adding 1,100 new jobs in November.

Even in the construction business, which lost 500 jobs, the decline was partly due to many contractors not being able to find enough workers to meet demand for commercial projects.

“We actually have several projects in the pipeline, and on each project our subcontractors can almost name their price because they’re so short on labor,” said Matt Olinger, Seattle-area assistant superintendent for developer Mill Creek Residential. “The reality is there’s just not enough people in the industry.”

The November numbers were a welcome contrast to the gloom surrounding recent layoffs and hiring freezes at Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter and other tech companies with headquarters or offices in Seattle.

In fact, the number of tech workers rose slightly with 1,000 new jobs in November, compared to a revised loss of 4,700 in October.

The new jobs data suggest that while technology remains a key part of the state’s economy, particularly in the Seattle area, the slowdown in technology has yet to affect the broader labor market, said James McCafferty, co-director of the University’s Center for Economic and Business Research. of Western Washington.

“The [tech] layoffs have attracted a lot of attention, but at this point they are not expected to be dramatic from an economic perspective because we expect many people to find ready work,” McCafferty said in an email Thursday.

But not all recent job numbers are good.

Hiring also slowed in some sectors that were normally expected to pick up in November. Public retailers, for example, shed 1,300 jobs compared to historical numbers, said Annelise Vance-Sherman, regional economist with ESD, which covers the Seattle labor market.

Washington’s unemployment rate rose to 4 percent in November from 3.8 percent in October. That’s still low by historical standards, but higher than the national rate of 3.7 percent. It is also the third increase in Washington since the summer months, when Washington’s unemployment rate appeared to have bottomed out at 3.7 percent.

Last week, 6,605 Washington residents filed initial claims for unemployment benefits, the ESD said Thursday. That’s down from the previous week and low by pre-pandemic standards, but it’s also nearly 40 percent higher than the weekly average over the past 12 months.

Notably, since Oct. 30, weekly jobless claims filed by tech workers are about 60 percent higher than in the past 12 months.

And these announcements may reflect only a fraction of the recent layoffs in the tech industry, many of which were announced in November. Those layoffs may not happen for months, Vance-Sherman said.

“It’s probably going to be a slow-moving situation, especially among large employers,” Vance-Sherman said.

More broadly, a growing number of forecasts show that job growth in Washington and elsewhere will stall at the end of next year.

Economists are particularly concerned that higher interest rates, seen as necessary to curb inflation, will eventually slow investment in job-creating businesses such as construction.

“You can have the permits and you can do the blueprints and if you can’t get the financing, then you can’t start the project,” said Ohlinger of Mill Creek Residential.

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