Report sees long, slow recovery to state’s economic malaise

Washington’s economic recovery will be slow, but it could be slightly easier that some other states due to a more modest fall from prosperity.

That’s the consensus of a report released Monday by the Washington State Employment Security Department, outlining a gradual climb out of recession. The 2009 Labor Market and Economic Report details the previous year’s economic and employment trends and gives a general summary of where the state’s economy is most likely headed.

And in 2010, it’s probably not headed anywhere fast. Talk of a nation in recovery shouldn’t get anyone’s hopes up — at least not right away, the report states.

“The official end of a recession just marks the end of the economic contraction, and is merely the beginning of the road to recovery,” the report’s authors wrote. “Following the previous recession (in 2001), it took the state more than three and a half years to get back to its pre-recession level of nonfarm employment. In the Seattle area, matters were even worse — it was more than five years before the region attained its pre-recession employment levels.”

But though 2010 is predicted to be better than last year, state economists point out there are “significant headwinds” working against Washington.

State revenue is dependent on sales tax, meaning budgets will still be cut to the bone going forward. Infrastructure problems such as traffic congestion could hamper growth, and the report authors speculate that Washington’s reputed “negative business climate” could make it difficult for the state to attract new companies and retain old ones.

The report states that Snohomish County lost 13,830 jobs between December 2007 and September 2009, a decline of 5.3 percent.

Statewide during that time period, there was a 4.5 percent drop, with job losses totaling 132,600.

In the long term, Washington is expected to add about 307,000 new nonfarm jobs between 2007 and 2017, with an average annual growth rate of 1 percent. All major industry classifications are projected to grow during that decade with the exception of mining, logging and manufacturing.

Most job growth during that time period is expected to come from the professional and business services sector and from education and health services.

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