Two agency economists join Seattle minimum wage study

Anneliese Vance-Sherman is Employment Security’s regional labor economist for Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, San Juan and Island counties.

Over the past couple years, the issue of raising the minimum wage has ignited debate locally and nationally. Voters in the City of SeaTac approved a $15 per hour minimum wage that took effect in 2014. Shortly after, the City of Seattle approved a new minimum wage that will reach $15 per hour (adjusted for inflation) to be phased in over several years. The Seattle ordinance went into effect on April 1, 2015.


Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Scott Bailey

Employment Security economists Anneliese Vance-Sherman and Scott Bailey are members of the research team studying the effects of Seattle’s minimum wage law.

Following the announcement in Seattle, a number of other governments, businesses and non-government organizations throughout Washington and the U.S. have jumped into the debate, bringing it to a national audience.

Any policy change can have a variety of intended and unintended consequences, and there is no shortage of theories to support both proponents and opponents in this debate.

On the same day the Seattle ordinance was passed, the City Council passed a resolution to study the effects of the new law. The city awarded an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Washington to conduct the multi-faceted study. The team is taking a neutral stance; they aren’t looking to support one theory or another, but to observe actions taken in response to the change, and the way these actions ripple into Seattle-area communities.

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King County and the story of two high-growth industries

Anneliese Vance-Sherman is Employment Security’s regional labor economist for Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, San Juan and Island counties.

Washington state continues to march forward, leaving behind the economic downturn of seven years ago. King County, with 1.3 million jobs, has arguably led the statewide recovery, and continues to show strong year-over-year job growth in most sectors.

From February 2014 to February 2015, employers in King County created 41,400 jobs—an increase of 3.3 percent. The overwhelming majority of new jobs came from the private sector (38,600 jobs—an increase of 3.6 percent). All major industries expanded over the year, with the bulk of growth observed among service providing industries.

On a percentage basis, the industry that grew its labor force the most was construction. Over the past 12 months, construction industries collectively added 9,200 jobs or 16.4 percent—and gains were widespread, particularly among specialty trade contractors and building construction.

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Washington’s wage recovery

Anneliese Vance-Sherman is a labor market economist with the Employment Security Department (ESD). She covers Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom Counties.

The unemployment rate has been on a downward march since early 2010, and the number of jobs in Washington has continued to climb, reaching pre-recession levels in late 2013. Based on these two metrics, there is no question that we are in a recovery mode—yet the recovery has not reached all Washingtonians—and certainly not all in the same way.  Another meaningful metric we can look at is wages.
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Demographic trends in aerospace

Different industries have different demographic characteristics. This is not a particularly surprising observation. As a young adult, I had jobs in industries that employ a high proportion of youth, including restaurants and retail. Other industries such as manufacturing, education and government are characterized by older workforces. Continue reading

Youth summer employment

Summer is just around the corner. Schools are preparing for break, and teens in my neighborhood have been asking about mowing my lawn.

Youth employment is highly seasonal, predictably spiking in the summer and declining during the school year. It’s also very sensitive to the strength of the labor market. The recession took a disproportionate toll on Washington’s young workers, and the recovery hasn’t stretched to them yet. Continue reading