Despite Boeing hiring, state economy still stalled

The state economy continues to be weighed down by a slack housing market and less demand for construction, despite bright spots in key areas such as aerospace and computer software, the state’s chief economist told lawmakers in Olympia on Monday.

“We’re functioning in a very uncertain economic environment,” Arun Raha, Washington’s chief economist, told members of the House Community Development and Housing Committee during a hearing that was webcast.

Consumer confidence has shown signs of improving, but it’s too early to tell whether that will continue, he said. That’s important because state and local government budgets are tied closely to consumer spending on major purchases like automobiles and homes.

“I still think we are a year to a year and a half away from any positive signs in construction,” Raha said.

The segments of the state economy that are showing positive signs: aerospace, agriculture, computer software and exports.

The Boeing Co. added 8,361 jobs in Washington in 2011, according to a recent update on the company’s website. The company is increasing jet production in the state over the next few years.

“We have some incredible growth opportunities,” Drew Magill, a marketing director for Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, told the legislative committee.

Boeing estimates that airlines around the world will need 33,500 new airplanes over the next 20 years. At the end of 2011, Boeing had a backlog of 3,771 unfilled orders for commercial aircraft. It would take Boeing about seven years to work off that backlog at current production rates, Magill said.

Bill McSherry, of Boeing’s Northwest government operations team, told lawmakers the company still has “lots of needs” in terms of both job training and education. Although the state has made progress increasing short-term training programs, Boeing “has needs throughout the education spectrum,” McSherry said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire wants the state to spend $7.6 million to expand engineering capacity at state universities. She’s also pushing to establish an aerospace research center.

Despite adding jobs in industries like aerospace, the state still has more than 300,000 people who are unemployed, Greg Weeks, director of labor market and economic analysis with the Employment Security Department, told legislators. That’s double the number of jobless in the state prior to the recession.

“This recession is really marked by long-duration unemployment,” Weeks said.

About 40 percent of unemployed people in Washington have been jobless for six months or longer. Weeks doesn’t predict a return to pre-recession employment levels in Washington through 2013.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. ( / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.

Erika Heer, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank
Quiet Quitting – the good, bad and what to do about it

Mid-summer, the term ‘quiet quitting’ became a part of the vocabulary of… Continue reading

Customers walk in and out of Fred Meyer along Evergreen Way on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Store managers in Everett plead for help with crime, public safety

Two Fred Meyer stores report theft, drug use and threats, despite increased security and presence from Everett police.