Job growth in Washington picked up only slightly in June and remains far behind levels earlier this year as employers, including tech firms like Microsoft, appear to be weighing the impacts of inflation and a global slowdown.
Washington added just 2,500 jobs in June, the state Employment Security Department reported Wednesday. That’s better than May’s 1,200-job loss, but was still the smallest monthly gain since May 2021 and well below the average monthly growth of 15,000 jobs the state has seen since June 2021. Unemployment in June was unchanged at 3.9%.
“Labor market conditions remain strong for now, but hiring is showing signs of slowing,” Paul Turek, ESD’s state economist, said in a statement. “Efforts underway to curb high inflation — such as raising interest rates — will likely continue to dampen job growth and hiring as the year progresses.”
That dampening apparently extends to parts of our state’s tech sector, which had come through the pandemic relatively unscathed.
Although tech employers added 2,400 jobs — the most of any sector, according to ESD data — some employers seem to be ratcheting back recruitment efforts.
On Wednesday, Microsoft said it was eliminating many open positions, including in its cloud-computing business and its security software unit, although it expected overall headcount to continue to grow.
“As Microsoft gets ready for the new fiscal year, it is making sure the right resources are aligned to the right opportunity,” the Redmond-based tech giant told Bloomberg in an emailed statement about the hiring cuts.
It’s a similar story in other parts of the Seattle-area tech sector, where hiring remains strong but the market is no longer quite so tilted in job-seekers’ favor, said Alicia Evans, market director at the Seattle office of recruiting firm Robert Half, who focuses on the Seattle-area tech sector.
“The market has shifted from candidates being able to ask for everything they wanted, plus the moon and the stars,” Evans said, adding that the shift is affecting what candidates can expect for salary and for pandemic-related perks such as being able to work fully remotely.
Despite that recent change, the tech sector continues to need lots of workers, Evans said. She likened the change to what’s happening in the housing market: “Did it slow down? Or is it just actually getting back to normal?”
Other Washington industries that saw job growth in June were manufacturing, which added 2,100 jobs, and construction, with 2,000.
But those gains were partly outweighed by losses in other sectors. Leisure and hospitality employers saw hiring fall by 500 in June, ESD data showed. Government employers lost 1,200 jobs and professional and business services lost 2,300 jobs.
And, as has been true for much of the pandemic, the sluggishness in hiring wasn’t spread equally across Washington.
June hiring in King and Snohomish counties jumped by a relatively healthy 8,000 while unemployment was just 2.6%, said Jacob Vigdor, an economist with the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy who follows state and local job markets.
In Washington’s 37 other counties, by contrast, employment fell and unemployment stood at 4.8%, Vigdor said. “That puts the 37 counties about a year behind King and Snohomish in terms of pandemic recovery,” he said.
“We have a ‘tale of two regions’ going on.”