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Insight from new labor supply stats

New labor supply and demand statistics are available for October, and provide insight into what’s happening with Washington’s employment crunch. 

The reports, provided by the state’s Employment Security Department, put numbers behind the anecdotal evidence that workers are in a stronger position, especially when compared to last year. The ratio for the number of job postings compared to those interacting with the unemployment insurance system this October was 3.82 job postings. Compare that to October 2020’s ratio which was .27 job postings. 

Total job postings increased from 222,048 in September 2021 to 228,333 last month. It marks a 2.8% increase. And the number of new job postings increased even more, by 3.9%. Without the Seattle-King County region, the number of total job postings from September to October increased 2.9%. New job listings increased at the same rate. 

Statewide, eight of the 12 workforce development areas experienced growth between September to October. 

Occupations with the largest increases in total job postings between September and October were transportation and material moving, with an increase of 14.4%, or 2,687 postings; computer and mathematical support with an increase of 1,923 or 9.6%, and office and administrative support, with an increase of 1,439 or 5.7%. 

The below chart is from the state’s supply and demand dashboard:

The increase in transportation and material moving may not be surprising considering the supply chain issues facing Washington State, and the country’s ports. 

On the other side, the occupations with the largest decreases in total job postings were food preparation and serving, with a decrease of 625 or 5.1%; health care practitioners with a 328 or 1.6% decrease, and education, training and library with a decrease of 222, or 3.8%. 

Even as unemployment declines, businesses are having trouble finding enough workers to fully staff their operation. This paradox has led to corporations and businesses like Amazon and Walmart, as well as smaller companies, raising wages to try and entice and retain workers. 

There has also been an uneven economic recovery by sector in Washington. For example, Steve Lerch, executive director of the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, recently told the Wire that industries like the arts have been slower to recover, perhaps due to changing consumer preferences and anxiety over COVID-19. And there’s a real question as to whether tourism will bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, or if people will prefer to stay closer to home. 
On a broader scale, the nation is struggling with how to address inflation. The U.S. inflation rate in October hit 6.2%, which is the highest in three decades. At the same time, two-thirds of the largest publicly traded corporations are reporting higher profits during the third quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019 as some companies cut back on customer discounts to boost profits.

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