It’s Labor Day, and unemployment here is at a 20-year low

Snohomish County’s jobless rate hasn’t been this low since 1999. And that’s good for job-seekers.

EVERETT — Everyone seems to be working this Labor Day.

Snohomish County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, which was about 4% at the beginning of the year, took a sharp downturn in April, dropping a full percentage point to 3%. And it’s hovered there ever since.

The last time the county’s jobless rate dipped that low was April 1999, when it was 3.1%.

“I’ve never seen it like this,” said Megan Slabinski, a district president with Robert Half’s technology division. The global staffing firm has offices in Lynnwood, Seattle and throughout the U.S.

“Unemployment is at a 50-year low,” Slabinski said, referring to a nationwide consensus. “Essentially, we’re at full employment.”

Statewide, the unemployment rate was 4.6% in July.

For the past 18 to 24 months, companies have been complaining that they can’t find enough job candidates to grow their business, she said.

Businesses say that the “shortage of potential employees relative to the demand … is slowing economic growth,” according to the most recent report from the National Federation of Independent Business. A record 26% of employers said that finding qualified workers is their No. 1 issue, the highest percentage since 1973, when the survey began. In July, 39% of small businesses said they had positions they could not fill, the report said.

Besides a low jobless rate, the Puget Sound region has two of the world’s biggest employers — Amazon and Microsoft.

“They’re growing, sucking up talent,” Slabinski said. “And that makes the low unemployment rate even more competitive.”

The state minimum wage is $12 an hour and will rise to $13.50 in January. Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage is pushing some Snohomish County businesses to offer the same.

Slabinski is advising companies to allow at least nine to 12 weeks to find their next employee.

The first indicator of a tight labor market — more jobs than job candidates — is the phone starts ringing off the hook, said Olivia Maisel, branch manager of Northwest Staffing Services in Everett. The staffing firm focuses on light industrial, clerical and production jobs.

“Companies that might not have used a staffing agency in the past start calling us because they can’t find people,” Maisel said.

Competition for job applicants, which can be fierce in some industries, is giving “employers a dose of reality. They realize they’re going to have to raise their pay rate or lower their expectations for the amount of experience.”

With labor shortages, “employers have to exhibit a willingness to look outside the box,” Maisel said.

Slabinski is advising employers to make job-hunting part of the company’s daily strategy. “You should be going to career fairs, schools … always be on the lookout.”

Also important is keeping current employees on the payroll, Slabinski said.

“Check in on your employees’ job satisfaction. Invest in training. Lay out a three- to five-year career path for employees — a road map for what they can expect if they stay with the company,” Slabinski said.

On the other hand, if you’re a job seeker, “it’s a great time for anyone to look for work,” she said.

Job-seekers who’ve been sidelined in the past because of a disability, lack of recent work history or a criminal record also stand a better chance of employment in the current climate, she said.

Here’s what Slabinski tells job-seekers: In the present market you’ve got some leverage. Don’t be afraid to negotiate on your behalf, but don’t price yourself out of the market.

If the starting salary is too low, ask that your review be in six months instead of 12, she said.

And don’t “ghost” employers by never showing up for interviews or the first day of work.

Here’s why, said Slabinski: “This job market will change. It will, of course, crack, and you might be on the begging end. Remember that your career is going to be very long. Don’t burn bridges.”

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods.

Snohomish County by the numbers

• The decrease in the jobless rate from 4% in March to 3% is a 25% decline in the number of unemployed folks. In March, 17,523 people in the county were unemployed. In April, only 13,100 were jobless.

• May’s jobless rate was 3.1%, June was 3.0% and July’s preliminary rate, subject to adjustment, was 3.3%.

• In July, the number of people employed full time or seeking full-time work in Snohomish County was about 441,000. The county’s population is about 815,000.

• In April 1998, the county’s jobless rate hit a low of 2.6%. That’s the lowest rate since 1990, when the federal agency began tracking unemployment by county.

• The county’s jobless rate reached a high of 11.2% in January and February of 2010.

• Last year’s Snohomish County unemployment rate averaged 3.8%.

• In the past 12 months, most of the county’s job growth has come from the “goods-producing” sector that includes construction, mining, logging and manufacturing. Aerospace manufacturers alone added 2,600 jobs in the past year.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic Alliance Snohomish County, U.S. Census

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

The City of Arlington filed a lawsuit seeking the closure of the Smokey Point Motor Inn because of excessive criminal activity on the property. Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington wants to close motel, center of ‘criminal activity’

In the past few years, police have responded hundreds of times to the Smokey Point Motor Inn.

A handful of Northwest Union Carpenter members picket in front of the new Marysville civic center construction site on the sixth day of a region wide union carpenter strike on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Union carpenters picket at Marysville and Everett projects

The Marysville Civic Center and an Everett Amazon building are among dozens of construction sites affected.

Twins Leslie Davis (left) and Lyndsay Lamb stage a house in Everett as seen on the second season of "Unsellable Houses" on HGTV. (HGTV photo)
Sold: Snohomish twins back for more HGTV ‘Unsellable Houses’

The makeover show’s 13 episodes feature Snohomish County homes, with decor items sold at new store.

Tuesday's career fair will be at Everett Community College, which incidentally is also one of the participants. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Snohomish County Career Fair set for Tuesday at EvCC

Job seekers can connect with more than 40 employers at this year’s annual event.

Snohomish County unemployment rate drops slightly to 5.6%

Washington added 16,800 jobs in August.

Report: Criminal indictment coming for former Boeing official

Mark Forkner was the 737 Max Chief Technical Pilot who is alleged to have lied to aviation regulators.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
All eyes on Alice, the electric plane made in Arlington

If all goes well, Eviation’s battery-powered airplane will make its debut test flight later this year.

Bufeng Gao, owner of Qin Xi'an Noodles, receives a check from the Edmonds Chamber Foundation's Wish Fund outside of her restaurant that was burned in a fire on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 in Edmonds, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After arson burns Edmonds plaza, 14 businesses need help

Plum Tree Plaza — a cultural hub for Asian Americans — burned in a three-alarm fire early Sept. 11.

Hand drawn vector illustration of bottle of red wine and two glasses. Abstract cartoon style isolated.
You voted: The best wine list in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, folks still have their favorites.

Boeing sells land for $200M in plan to shrink holdings

Boeing has sold 310 acres of undeveloped land next to its Frederickson manufacturing plant.

Washington August jobless rate was 5.1%; 16,800 jobs added

August’s rate was the same as July’s rate, and increased even as COVID-19 cases surge.

Boeing moving 150 jobs from Washington and California to Texas

The affected jobs are in the company’s global parts distribution unit.