Snohomish County gains, holds manufacturing jobs

It’s taking a while, but Snohomish County is gradually creeping up on Pierce County for the No. 2 slot in Washington.

When I moved to Washington 30 years ago, Pierce was clearly second only to King County in terms of population, jobs and just about everything else. I guess it was debatable back then whether the pulp mills in Everett smelled worse or whether the aroma of Tacoma ruled the day.

But things are changing.

On the job front, they’re changing quickly.

The Puget Sound Regional Council, the agency that looks are regional trends, recently looked at job growth for 2006 and 2007 and sent out some interesting numbers.

In 2007, King County was clearly the biggest employment center with 1,155,950 positions that are called covered employment. Those are jobs that include part-time and temporary work, but do not account for self employed workers, business proprietors, CEOs, military personnel or other non-insured workers. The agency estimates that covered employment accounts for 85 to 90 percent of total employment.

Snohomish County had 247,650 covered employment workers last year. Pierce County was estimated to have 271,450. Pierce County is still ahead of us in virtually every job category, with the exception of manufacturing jobs. Snohomish County had 51,900 estimated covered jobs in manufacturing and Pierce County had only 19,750. King County had 111,100 factory jobs last year.

That’s interesting because it means that about 9.6 percent of King County’s workers are in manufacturing, 7.3 percent of Pierce County’s are in that sector and 20.9 percent of Snohomish County’s workers are in manufacturing.

Not to waste too much time on the obvious, but manufacturing jobs are prized around the nation because they pay so well. They’re also disappearing around the nation as more manufacturers take their work overseas.

Snohomish County isn’t immune to that. Everett’s Intermec recently decided to send its manufacturing work to Asia.

So having so many factory jobs here is a good thing.

Why are we so lucky? Well again, I’m stating the obvious, but it’s because of the continued hiring at the Boeing Co.

Michael Jensen, who prepared the report for the regional council, noted that the last recession in 2001 hurt both the aerospace and information technology industries. “It hit them really hard,” he said.

They came back with a vengeance in 2006 and 2007, although things have slowed down this year. The result was some serious job growth in Snohomish and King counties during the past few years. That’s been less true of Pierce and Kitsap counties because they don’t have as many aerospace or information technology firms.

Of the top 10 cities in employment growth in 2006 and 2007, six were King County and four were in Snohomish County. Pierce and Kitsap had none.

Everett, which added 5,300 jobs and 7 percent growth, was third; Marysville, with 1,750 jobs and 19 percent growth, was sixth; Lynnwood, with 1,450 jobs and 6 percent growth, was 8th; and Mukilteo, with 1,250 jobs and 17 percent growth, was 10th.

As I mentioned earlier, aerospace jobs are a major factor in the county’s growth. Past history tells us that what goes up can also go down. But it’s interesting to me that Snohomish County, once mostly a bedroom community for Seattle, is continuing to grow into its own and that it’s still holding onto a larger percentage of its well-paying manufacturing jobs.

Data breach

Last week, I wrote about the serious problem with information theft from businesses by people mostly trying to steal our identities, our credit and our savings. The next day the Washington Post reported that more data breaches have been reported so far this year than in all of 2007.

It cited the Identity Theft Resource Center of San Diego as reporting that 449 U.S. businesses, government agencies and universities have reported a loss or theft of consumer data this year. Last year, the center tallied 446 breaches involving 127 million consumer records.

A reminder: safeguard your data.

Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459;

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